Post: Jenin: Despite economic prosperity, PA failed to disarm militiamen – analysis
Many Palestinians have long been proudly referring to Jenin as “the factory of men and the lion’s den” because of its role in the “armed resistance” against Israel, especially since the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987.
The most notorious group was the Black Panther, whose members were mostly based in the town of Qabatiya and the villages of Arrabeh, Kufr Ra’i and Silet al-Harithiyeh, as well as the Jenin refugee camp.
The Black Panther gunmen were responsible for a series of attacks against IDF soldiers and settlers. Additionally, they also took it upon themselves to murder Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel.
Hundreds of “collaborators” and their family members fled to Israel, while others were placed by the IDF in a small village called Fahmeh at the southern entrance to Jenin.
It took the Israeli security forces four years to wipe out the Black Panther. Many of the group’s members were killed or arrested, including its founders, Awad Kmeil, a prominent Fatah activist from Qabatiya.
After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Israel released scores of Black Panther members who did not have Jewish blood on their hands. Some were recruited to the PA security forces, while others were given senior jobs in various institutions.
In 2002, at least 23 of the suicide bombers who attacked Israel came from the Jenin area. When the IDF raided the Jenin refugee camp in April that year as part of Operation Defensive Shield, several members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed during fierce clashes. Twenty-three soldiers were also killed in the fighting.
Since then, the armed groups in the camp and other places in the Jenin area have managed to rebuild a vast network of terror infrastructure. The PA was not eager to combat the phenomenon and often chose to look the other way.
Many of the Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members have since been involved in arms trafficking and the recruitment of new members.
The PA leaders did not want to be accused by Palestinians of cracking down on “the fine men of the revolution,” especially in a place like the Jenin refugee camp, which became a symbol of the Palestinian “struggle” against Israel.