The Palestinian security structure officially emerged in the Oslo Accords
, an agreement signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the State of Israel in 1993.
As stated in Article VIII of the Declaration of Principles
(DOP), a joint Palestinian-Israeli council is to establish a strong police force that will guarantee public order and internal security for Palestinians in the areas of the West Bank and Gaza under Palestinian Authority
control. According to the DOP, the overall security of Israelis and defense against external threats will remain the responsibility of Israel
The Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area
, signed on May 4, 1994, determined the structure of the PA security apparatus for five years until the negotiation of a final status agreement. The number of police was set at 9,000, of which more than 75% (7,000) were recruited from the Palestine Liberation Army in the diaspora. The remaining 2,000 came from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli approval was required for all personnel equipped with a maximum of 7,000 personal firearms, 120 medium and heavy machine guns, and 45 armored vehicles.
The Oslo II Interim Agreement
(1995) set the number of Palestinian security personnel at 30,000. However, the International Monetary Fund stated in its 2003 report that Palestinian security personnel actually numbered 56,128.
The late Yasser Arafat
split the Palestinian security services into 12 divisions, loosely coordinated and entirely under his command. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas
became the president of the Palestinian Authority and reformed the security structure, merging 12 divisions into three branches: National Security, Interior and Intelligence.
NATIONAL SECURITYNational Security Forces
This armed unit is closest to operating as a Palestinian army. Its function is to patrol the borders of Palestinian Authority-controlled “Area A”, to guard checkpoints, and to provide manpower for joint patrols with Israel concerned with crime and national security. It consists of forces from the Palestinian Liberation Army and local recruits from the occupied Palestinian territories, totaling about 15,000 members.Coast Guard
This Gaza-based unit has some 1,000 members. Its function is to prevent arms and drug smuggling from Egypt. The entire fleet has at its disposal five motorboats equipped with machine guns. Most of the Coast Guard members were trained in Yemen and have also passed special commando training.Air Guard or Aerial Police
A small unit operating with the Palestinian Authorityzzz*zs five helicopters to transport high-level officials between Gaza and the West Bank. Previously, it was known as Force 14, the aerial unit of Fateh.
INTERIOR SECURITYCivil Police
Also known as the blue police due to its uniforms, this is a lightly-armed force of about 10,000 men and women who carry out daily policing in Palestinian Authority towns. Its duties comprise arresting criminals, controlling traffic, and keeping order. A special rapid deployment unit, consisting of 700 people, is trained to deal with special situations (riots, counterterrorism operations, etc.).Civil Defense
Emergency rescue and fire department services are the basic responsibilities of this apparatus. It also teaches first aid and rescue to civilians.County Guard or Governorate Security
The function of this small unit is to provide security for governors and their offices, and helping to resolve local disputes.Preventive Security Force
The largest intelligence service under the Palestinian Authorityzzz*zs control, it numbers 5,000 plainclothed members in separate units in the occupied territories. Its function is to deal with counterterrorism, monitor opposition groups, and conduct reconnaissance and intelligence operations in Israel. It and its sister agency, the intelligence service or mukhabarat
, work and compete together on different intelligence cases.Presidential Security
The former personal security force of Yasser Arafat now guards Mahmoud Abbas. It is a professionally trained group of some 3,000 members, most of them part of Force 17 which was responsible for Arafat’s security detail. It consists of two divisions: an intelligence unit that gathers information about domestic opposition and threats, and the Presidential Guard, the most trusted inner circle.
INTELLIGENCE General Intelligence (Mukhabarat)
This is the official PA intelligence agency. Its 3,000 members gather intelligence both inside and outside the territories. Its function is to perform counterespionage and liaison with other countries’ spy agencies. Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat)
This is a smaller intelligence agency dealing with the arrest and interrogation of opposition activists considered a threat to the Palestinian Authority regime (e.g. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.). The istikhbarat
also investigates illegal activity by other intelligence and security agencies.Military Police
A division of military intelligence, the military police specializes in riot control, arrests, guarding VIPs, prison maintenance, and keeping order among the security bodies. According to experts, it is unclear whether this division falls under the interior ministry or is an intelligence force.