PA detains 16 in fear of terrorist attacks during Christmas season

05:12 Dec 26 2015 Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority detained over a dozen Salafists in the Bethlehem area over the past few days, reportedly in effort to thwart potential terrorist attacks in the holy city during the Christmas season, Israeli media reported.

Sixteen in total were detained by security forces after the PA suspected that the Islamic State planned to target Christian tourists visiting Bethlehem, according to reports by Ynet, the English publication of Israeli news site Yedioth Ahronot.

No information was given regarding the actual involvement of those detained in terrorist activity.

PA officials met in Bethlehem earlier this week to map out how ot respond to the potential threat, where attendees decided to deploy large numbers of security forces into the city as well as to make arrests, Ynet reported.

Four detainees were put into administrative detention and four IS supporters were also detained from other areas of the West Bank, according to the report.

As IS and other extremist elements have spread across neighboring countries in the Middle East, Palestinian leadership in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip have voiced concern over the potential growth of extremism in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Despite the concern, support for the Islamic State group remains minuscule among Palestinians, according to recent polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

A poll conducted earlier this month reported that an overwhelming majority of 88 percent of Palestinians believe that IS is a radical group that does not represent true Islam.

Seven percent, meanwhile, said the group did represent Islam.
PLO Central Council member Muhammad Shtayyeh said earlier this month that while extremist groups have yet to take hold in the popular Palestinian public, such a reality could not be guaranteed if both the Israeli occupation and Palestinian political woes were not addressed.

“If today there is not one single Palestinian with Daesh or Al-Qaeda, can we really maintain this situation? I put this as a question mark and as a warning, this situation is very fragile,” Eshtayyeh said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

Frustration has grown among Palestinians against their leadership, particularly members of the PA, who have maintained a relative quiet through recent turmoil in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Shtayyeh emphasized at the time the necessity for Palestinian leaders to “bridge the gap between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership” if the current situation is to improve.

The official also said the ongoing Israeli military occupation and the violent policies it implements on Palestinians must also end in order to avoid the potential spread of extremism.
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