This reported claim of a a defeat of a Palestinian force by the Hamas in Nablus has a problematic feature. The force that entered Nablus November 2 was a police force intended to police crime and not the PA security forces.
November 5, 2007, 4:59 PM (GMT+02:00)
The 300-man force, introduced to Nablus Friday, Nov. 2, was thrown back in a two-hour battle Nov. 5 with five critically wounded troops in its first attempt to assume control and detain terrorists in the Nablus Balata bastion of the Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas, Jihad Islam and the Palestinian Fronts. This is reported by DEBKAfile's exclusive military sources.
The Palestinian Authority timed the assault to coincide with the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's meeting in Ramallah with its chairman Mahmud Abbas. The plan was for the special force to carry the day in its first anti-terror operation and so demonstrate that the PA was finally capable of subduing terror and so meeting the first proviso of the Middle East Road Map for progress in the peace process. However, the PA's special force was expected and greeted in Nablus' Balata camp by an ambush and crossfire on all sides from the Palestinian extremist groups, who were clearly acting on an advance tip-off.
The force retreated with a single prisoner, only to be faced with an ultimatum. They were told to release him by nightfall or else face a wholesale assault on the bases and roadblocks they set up in the West Bank city three days ago. In consultation with Mahmoud Abbas, it was decided to give in to the demand and let the captive go after the PA special force's commander said his outfit would cave in if forced to withstand another round of combat and more casualties.
DEBKAfile's military sources report that the Americans, Palestinians and Israelis had clearly overestimated the capabilities of the new force before introducing it to the Nablus arena. It had been hoped that its success in beating down Palestinian terrorists would be followed by a victory parade led by the PA chairman around the streets of Nablus prior to the handover of more West Bank towns to his security control ahead of the Annapolis peace conference. These hopes were dashed Monday.
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