Palestinian National Security Forces

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Palestinian National Security Forces
قوات الأمن الوطني الفلسطيني
Emblem of the Palestinian National Security Forces.svg
NSF Emblem
Founded 1994
Service branches * National Security Forces
* Military Intelligence
* Military Liaison
* Naval Police [1]

The Palestinian National Security Forces (NSF) (Arabic: قوات الأمن الوطني الفلسطيني‎‎) are the paramilitary security forces of the Palestinian National Authority. The name may either refer to all National Security Forces, including some special services but not including the Interior Security Forces, the Presidential Guard and General Intelligence, or refer to the main force within the National Security Forces.[1]

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, these forces operate in areas controlled by the PNA. In 2003, the organizations were merged into the Palestinian Security Services.

The Palestinian National Security Forces engage in various activities, including general law enforcement. A rough estimate of the total strength as of 2007 is 42,000 troops.[1]


As part of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was authorized to recruit and train a police force with paramilitary capabilities, but was not permitted to have a military force. Several bilateral agreements between the PNA and Israel regulate the size of the force, its structure, armament, and composition. The agreements provide Israel with the right to review potential recruits and withhold approval of those with a terrorist background. They were not enforced, however, with the result that the actual size and equipment of the force in 2002 exceeded what was permitted.[2]

Initially, Yasser Arafat set up a string of 14 overlapping and often competing security forces, each one controlled by a rival political or former guerrilla chieftain, but all of them ultimately loyal to him and his Fatah party.[3]

After Hamas had established a PNA government in March 2006, it formed its own security service, the Executive Force, headed by Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was killed by Israel three months later.[3]


The National Security Forces engage in various activities, including general law enforcement. The Military Intelligence collects external military intelligence. It became the NSF Military Intelligence Department. The Military Police is a separate unit. The Military Liaison coordinates security with Israel and participated in joint Israeli–Palestinian patrols in the past. The main task of the Naval Police was to protect the territorial waters in Gaza until the imposition of the Gaza blockade.[1]


Early history[edit]

The predecessor of the NSF was the PLO's Palestine Liberation Army. When the NSF were formed, most personnel was recruited from the PLA. Gradually, local recruits were added.[1]

From the late 1990s, the CIA played the central role in building up PA security forces, in close co-operation with the Israeli military and intelligence. After the killing of three US officials in the Gaza strip in 2003, British forces played an increasingly active role.[4]

2005 restructuring plan[edit]

According to The Guardian, based on the Palestine Papers, in 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair approved a plan of the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 for a US-led "counter-insurgency surge" against Hamas.[4] MI6 proposed a secret plan to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank. It included internment of leaders and activists, closure of radio stations and replacement of imams in mosques. The plan recommended inter alia

"Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists – Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships' communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources".

Also the internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures should have been explored. The plan aimed to implement the Road map for peace.[5]

In March 2005, a secret British "Palestinian Security Plan" was presented with detailed proposals for a new security taskforce, based on "trusted PA contacts" outside the control of "traditional security chiefs", a British/US security "verification team", and "direct lines" to Israeli intelligence.[4][6] The document notes that Israel was not content with the functioning of the NSF and opposed enhancement of the organisation with munitions and surveillance equipment. In a "subtle approach", the “old guard” could be retired with honour, "with subtle timing, once the decisions are made and the new structures are emerging" ... "The Israeli occupation has totally destroyed the capability of the NSF itself [in the West Bank] and inflicted significant damage on its infrastructure. NSF personnel are not permitted to bear arms or to move between areas in uniforms ... The NSF, being unarmed, are in no position to confront the militants."[6]

On 2 April 2005, President Abbas dismissed West Bank national security chief General Haj Ismail Jaber. The reason given was a shooting incident on 30 March inside Abbas’ headquarters in which militants fired into the air. Abbas also fired Ramallah security chief Yunis al-Has. Abbas placed the security services in Ramallah on a “state of alert”. A large-scale reform of the security services followed that month. On 22 April, head of the Gaza Security Forces Moussa Arafat was replaced by Suleiman Heles.[7]

2014 Italian–Palestinian training programme[edit]

By virtue of a bilateral agreement signed between the Italian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior of the Palestinian Authority, the Carabinieri became a partner in the technical and professional training of Palestinian security forces and, for this reason, on March 19, 2014 Carabinieri instructors left Italy for Jericho, where is situated the General Training Centre.[8]


Second Intifada[edit]

The Palestinian Security Services played a significant role during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, also known as the Second Intifada, which fought in battles such as The Battle of Jenin, Operation Defensive Shield and The Siege of the Church Of Nativity and were considered the main threat by Israel during the conflict.

2007 Fatah–Hamas conflict[edit]

In June 2007 the Palestinian Security Force had a particularly significant role in the confrontations between Fatah and Hamas. These confrontations resulted in the fall of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force headquarters in western Gaza City and in Khan Younis after explosions wrecked the two buildings during bloody clashes between Hamas and the Preventive Security Forces.

Divisions in 1995[edit]

Before the 2003–2005 reforms, numerous separate security forces, all under exclusive control of President Arafat, existed. The following list of forces (including Intelligence and Civil Police) was published, based on an interview with Gaza Police Commander Nasir Yusuf in early 1995:[9]

  1. National security ("al-Aman al-Watani")
  2. Navy ("al-Bahariya")
  3. Information Bureau ("al-Astakhabarat")
  4. Military Police ("al-Shurta al-'Askariyit")
  5. Force 17 ("Kuwat Sabatash")
  6. Intelligence ("al-Mukhabarat")
  7. Civil Defence ("al-Dufaa'a al-Madeni")
  8. Civil Police ("al-Shurta al-Madeniya")
  9. Criminal Security (al-Aman al-Junaa'i")
  10. Drugs ("al-Sha'bat Mkafahat al-Makhdarat")
  11. Riot Police ("Makafa't al-Shaghab")
  12. Traffic Police ("al-Shurta al-Marour")
  13. Preventative Security ('al-Aman al-Waqa'i")
  14. Military Discipline ("al-Anthabama al-'Askari")
  15. Presidential Security ("al-Aman al-Ra'isi")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Entry-points to Palestinian Security Sector Reform, Appendix A, p. 157-161. Roland Friedrich and Arnold Luethold, DCAF, 2007
  2. ^ Palestine: The recruitment practices of the Palestinian National Forces. Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada; 25 February 2003
  3. ^ a b U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics. Matthew Kalman, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 December 2006
  4. ^ a b c Palestine papers: MI6 plan proposed internment – and hotline to Israelis. Seumas Milne and Ian Black, The Guardian, 25 January 2011
  5. ^ UK Security Plan: British MI6 Palestinian Security Plan with Annex (2003). Al Jazeera, Palestine Papers, 2011. On [1]
  6. ^ a b British Security Plan: Palestinian National Security Force Report (18 March 2005). Al Jazeera, Palestine Papers, 2011. On [2]. View document on Guardian website: The Palestine papers: a blueprint for security The Guardian, 25 January 2011
  7. ^ Chronological Review of Events Relating to the Question of Palestine Monthly media monitoring review, April 2005. UN, Division for Palestinian Rights, 4 May 2005
  8. ^ "Medio oriente: l'Arma partecipa all'addestramento della polizia palestinese". Arma dei Carabinieri. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "There's a man with a gun over there...". Palestinian Authority Diary, Nigel Parsons, 1 March 1996

External links[edit]