JERUSALEM, Israel -- More than 150 suspects are being held in the Palestinian Authority's Jericho prison in what's being reported as a government crackdown against crime and corruption.
Many of those arrested are former members of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and others include members of the Palestinian National Security Forces, trained by the U.S. in Jordan, The Jerusalem Post reported.
According to the report, a senior IDF officer said the crackdown may bring positive changes as the P.A. asserts its authority in areas under its control.
P.A. spokesman for security forces Gen. Adnan Damiri said the operation, which began in May, would continue until gangs and criminal elements in the areas under their control have been dismantled. Damiri said the crackdown "is mostly targeting the arms trade in the West Bank." He also said security forces are awaiting delivery of 4,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Jordan, after Israel ok's the shipment.
In 2005, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas incorporated the al-Aksa Brigades into the security forces not long after the end of the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) from 2000-2004. During the intifada, al-Aksa claimed responsibility for dozens of suicide bombings and shooting attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens.
Then Telecommunications Minister Azzam Ahmed said "the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades will be protected and will be fully absorbed to incorporate them into the proper official institutions."
Israel also granted amnesty to al-Aksa members after the intifada, removing their names from the most wanted list after a three-month terrorism-free trial period.
Zacharia Zubeidi, former head of the al-Aksa Brigades who joined the P.A.'s security forces, is one of the detainees awaiting charges in the Jericho prison.
In April 2009, Zubeidi resigned from the security forces to join the P.A.'s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs. At the time, he said all his friends from al-Aksa had joined the security forces, but he had decided on a "civil career because that's where I can contribute to the things I believe in."