Special ZOA Backgrounder: Arafat’s Arsenal: A Look At The Weapons Held By Yasir Arafat’s Forces And Other Terrorist Groups Operating In Palestinian Authority-Controlled Areas
ZOA in the news
January 2, 2002


I. The Oslo Accords’ Restrictions on Weapons

According to the agreements signed by Israel and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat between 1993 and 1997:


– The Palestinian Authority (PA) may not engage in the “manufacture, sale, acquisition, importation or introduction of any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpower or related equipment into the West Bank or Gaza Strip, except for those of the Palestinian Police.” (Gaza-Jericho Agreement, Article IX.3, Interim Agreement, Article XIV)


– The PA is obligated to “prevent the manufacture of weapons as well as the transfer of weapons to persons not licensed to possess them.” (Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article XI.2)


– The PA is obligated to “confiscate illegal firearms” (Note for the Record) and to “establish and implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of illegal weapons” (Wye River Memorandum, Article II.A.2b).


II. Israeli Government Reports on PA Weapons

2000 (December): The Israeli government’s Dec.29,2000 statement responding to the Mitchell Report noted that “In addition to the excessive numbers of permitted weapons–such as pistols, assault rifels and sub-machine guns–in the hands of the Palestinian Police, illegal weapons held by the Police, militia, and other groups and individuals include the following: machine guns; hand grenades; rocket propelled grenades; grenade launchers; anti-tank missiles; shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles; cannons; machine guns; mortars; mines; and high explosives.”


1999 (November): The Barak Government’s November 1999 report, “PA and PLO Non-Compliance with Signed Agreements and Commitments: A Record of Bad Faith and Misconduct,” found that “thousands” of illegal weapons were in the PA-controlled areas, and “no serious effort [has been] made to implement the unambiguous commitment to collect all illegal weapons. Fatah members [have] continued to carry arms openly, and in recent events have displayed items strictly forbidden to be held in PA territories, such as various automatic weapns and hand grenades. There are indications that heavier weapons–bought, stolen, or smuggled–are in the hands of Palestinian forces or militias.”


1999 (February): The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s “Report on Palestinian Compliance – February 1, 1999,” found that “there are literally thousands of illegal weapons freely held in the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction, not only in the hands of civilians but also in the hands of the Palestinian Police. These weapons considerably exceed the numbers permitted by the Interim Agreement and many of them, including mortars, mines and grenade launchers, are totally prohibited by the Agreement.”

III. Statements by PA Officials on Illegal Weapons

– The chief of the PA’s Preventive Security forces in Judea-Samaria, Jibril Rajoub, said in June 2001 that the PA “will not collect weapons that are in the hands of militants.”
(Ha’aretz, June 17, 2001)


– The chief of the PA’s Preventive Security forces in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, said in October 2000 that “the PA will not disarm the Fatah milita.” (Israel Television, Oct. 17, 2000)


– The Jerusalem Post, which interviewed the PA’s Gaza Security chief Mohammed Dahlan on August 9, 1999, reported: “Dahlan would not respond specifically to questions regarding Palestinian action on police recruitment, weapons collections, and other matters stipulated by the Wye agreement.”


– Arafat’s number two man, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) said in July 1999 that the PA has already “collected all the weapons we knew about”. (Jerusalem Times, July 16, 1999)


– In a July 8, 1999 interview, Ahmed Sabawi, spokesman for the PA Preventive Security force in Gaza, stated that the PA has confiscated only 120 of the tens of thousands of illegal weapons in areas under its control. (IMRA, July 8, 1999).


IV. Quantity of Weapons in PA-Controlled Areas

– According to the Jerusalem Report (July 31, 2000), “the Palestinian police (and civilians) are holding approximately 40,000 illegal weapons, beyond the 11,000 Kalashnikovs, 4,000 pistols and 240 mortars that were allowed under the terms of the Oslo agreement.”


– The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on January 15, 1998, that the PA security forces “possess some 35,000 firearms, almost twice the number allowed under the Oslo accords.” [The figure does not include the tens of thousands of weapons held by other groups, such as Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and the DFLP.]


– Israel Radio reported on October 8, 1996 that “there are approximately 40,000 weapons in the hands of PA security officials throughout Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.”


– The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported on September 27, 1996 that “there are 90,000 firearms in the autonomy areas.”


– In May 1995, Arafat’s Minister of Information, Yasser Abd Rabbo, estimated that there were “from 20,000 to 40,000” illegal weapons in Gaza. (Interview with Peace Watch, May 17, 1995)


– In March 1995, Arafat estimated that there were 26,000 illegal weapons in Gaza alone. (Ma’ariv, March 6, 1995)


V. Types of Weapons in PA-Controlled Areas

ROCKETS: The news agency Middle East Newsline reported on November 8, 2001 that “the PA is manufaturing the Kassem-1 short-range rocket for attacks against Israel.”


Israel Television reported on February 4, 2001, that Israel had recently intercepted a shipment of 50 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 1,000 rockets, and scores of 60mm mortar rounds” that the PA was trying to smuggle by boat to Gaza.

MORTARS: Israel Radio reported on May 23, 2001 that “the Israeli General Security Service has uncovered a PA program that has already produced thousands of improved mortars.”

ANTI-TANK MISSILES: The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on June 1, 1998 that “The Palestinians have anti-tank missiles and a large number of land mines, which they will try to place in the path of Israeli tanks should Israel attempt to re-enter and occupy Palestinian cities. They may also have rocket-propelled grenades.”


The Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on January 15, 1998 that the PA is “procuring anti-tank weapons and possibly also anti-aircraft Stinger missiles.”


Time magazine reported (December 8, 1996) that “Yasser Arafat’s security forces are working around the clock to obtain an arsenal of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles – weapons they are forbidden to have under the Oslo accords…Palestinian security officials deny any official involvement in weapons smuggling but acknowledge that their forces already possess dozens of LAW anti-tank missiles confiscated from or donated by local Islamic militants.”

ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES: The Jerusalem Post, quoting the London-based intelligence newsletter Foreign Report, reported on January 22, 1998 that the PA has ‘a couple of hundred’ rocket-propelled grenades and a number of old SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles.”


The Israeli daily Ha’aretz (December 11, 1996) reported that “the Palestinian Authority has not only LAW missiles but also Saggar missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.”


Ma’ariv reported on January 7, 1997 that “the Palestinian forces have large amounts of weaponry, among them anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, such as Katyushas and RPGs.”

GRENADES: The PA has “established factories for manufacturing ammunition, including a plant which produces hand grenades,” according to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot (April 15, 1997).


Israel Television reported (January 6, 1997) that “hand grenades, shells, and possibly even Katyusha rockets are being manufactured [by the PA] within Gaza.”

NAVAL EQUIPMENT: The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported on August 31, 1999 that “the Palestinian naval commando unit purchased military equipment in Europe, Russia, and China, which was smuggled into the Gaza Strip through Egypt, using tunnels constructed under the Rafiah border area…The base for the PA naval unit is located on the coast, north of the Shati refugee camp.


The Oslo accords, which regulate the scope of Palestinian forces, permit the PA to maintain a small naval force of ten patrol boats, similar to the coast guard operated by the Israel Police. The activities permitted to the naval force include prevention of smuggling and infiltration, and supervising fishing off the Gaza coast. The Oslo agreements do not permit the operation of offensive forces.” Yediot also revealed that in July 1999, two PA frogmen in the unit were killed in a training accident during which they were attaching explosive mines to ships.

OTHER BANNED WEAPONS: The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on July 7, 1998 that “the Palestinian security bodies hold several hundred weapons of different kinds that were not approved by Israel according to the procedures outlined in the agreement. There are some 400 such weapons, smuggled in to the territories from overseas, purchased from criminal elements in Israel or confiscated from opposition groups.”




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