A recent Ynet report has revealed that a security firm employing veterans from elite British units has been contracted by the European Union to provide training for 80 commandos from the Western-backed Palestinian Authority expected to be used for deployment in Jerusalem.
The new unit will reportedly be tasked with securing EU facilities in Israel’s capital and maintaining order in the area. The 80 PA militants to be selected for the job will be trained and guided by the British company Saladin Security.
The project has been arranged by the EU, which intends to train the Arabs to serve as a highly skilled force to maintain European interests in Israel’s capital, and later on across Judea and Samaria.
Saladin Security, established in 1978 by veterans of Britain’s elite SAS unit, is often referred to as a mercenary firm and has been involved in conflict areas in dozens of countries over the decades.
Formerly known as KMS, Saladin has been linked to a number of controversial operations. In 1984, the company was hired for the purpose of carrying out sabotage acts in Nicaragua, as part of secret United States support for the Rightist Contras.
Although Saladin operatives trained Islamic rebels fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the firm now fights against those rebels. According to reports, Saladin has been operating 2,000 employees in Afghanistan since 2002 as part of the American-led NATO occupation of the country.
As Saladin embarks on its Jerusalem mission, the EU has already submitted a request to Israel for gun permits to be issued to the former British troops contracted to train PA security forces.
According to the Ynet report, a senior European intelligence official expressed his surprise at Israel’s willingness to allow Saladin to operate within its territory. Meanwhile, the IDF, Justice Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office, and Israel Police told reporters that they were unfamiliar with the issue, or alternately referred questions to other officials. Some observers have noted that this may be an early sign that the Israeli government is bowing to international pressure and preparing to surrender most of Jerusalem to the PA.
While the EU itself has confirmed that Saladin Security has been contracted “to provide security protection services” in Jerusalem, it has denied that the firm will be training PA forces.
“Saladin Security will not train Palestinian security guards but will brief and coach their staff to ensure the quality of the service. In compliance with Israeli regulations, the members of the close protection team, composed of EU nationals, receive their weapon license from the competent Israeli authorities,” the EU said. “Due to the sensitivity of security issues, the Commission is not in a position to provide additional information as regards its security arrangements.”
EU Press & Information Manager, David Kriss, echoed these denials in a statement, claiming, “The EU would like to clarify that it has not hired UK Saladin Security to train a special Palestinian unit to be deployed in East Jerusalem. The EU has contracted UK Saladin Security to provide protective security services strictly and exclusively for EU staff and premises.”
These protective services, which include guarding, access control and night watch, are viewed by security experts as tasks for which Saladin is highly overqualified. Analysts dismissed the notion that the mercenary firm would be contracted for such menial work.
Kriss did acknowledged, however, that the EU is training the “Blue” PA security forces in other capacities.
In response to a lengthy list of detailed questions posed to Saladin by Israeli journalists, the company provided the following response: “Thank you for your letter of 24 June 2010. It is the policy of this company never to comment on specific contracts and its clients’ affairs. You may wish to contact the European Commission in Brussels for any further comment.”