Israeli-Palestinian security coordination: a thorny issue

After a senior Palestinian official died in a confrontation with Israeli troops in the West Bank, speculation arose that the Palestinians might cancel security coordination with Israel.

Established under the 1993 Oslo peace accords, the coordination involves the sharing of intelligence between the two sides. What is shared, and how it is done, is a closely guarded secret.

For Israel, it is considered crucial for keeping close tabs on Islamist group Hamas and its West Bank members, and Israeli media say cooperation has foiled numerous potential attacks.

It has severely dented the popularity of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who threatened that "all options" were on the table in response to the death Wednesday of Ziad Abu Ein.

In June, Israel rounded up hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers, which it blamed on Hamas.

The mass arrests inflamed tensions and hardened Palestinian criticism of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.

The Oslo accords stipulated security coordination between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) of late leader Yasser Arafat.

That broke down during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising (2000-2005), but was revived under Arafat's successor Abbas.

The accords directly established the Palestinian Authority's security branches: the civilian police; general intelligence, which covers domestic and international portfolios; civil defence, for emergency and rescue; preventative security, which handles political crime; and the National Security Force.

The National Security Force includes border police, navy, military police, military intelligence, customs police, aviation police, and the elite presidential guards.

Some observers say the coordination works to advantage of the PA, which is dominated by Hamas's bitter rivals, Abbas's Fatah party.