PA Ends Israel Security Coordination After IDF Raid in Jenin Kills 9
US Secretary of State to visit the region next week amid heightened tensions, but Palestinian analysts say they have low expectations that Biden administration will put effective pressure on Jerusalem
Israel exchanged missile fire with Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Friday night, raising fears of an increased escalation following one of the deadliest army raids in the West Bank in years, which hours earlier led the Palestinian Authority to suspend security cooperation.
Responding to rocket fire on the south, Israel said that its airstrikes in Gaza “targeted an underground rocket manufacturing site” belonging to Hamas and a north Gaza military base used by the Palestinian militant group, which rules the coastal enclave.
There were no reported casualties on either side. The Israel Defense Forces said that four of the rockets fired from the Strip were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and another three fell in open areas.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the rockets were “part of a message” to show that “Palestinian blood is not cheap.” Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad had vowed to respond to Israel’s raid Thursday in the West Bank.
Hamas said that Israel would “pay the price” for the Jenin operation, which targeted members of Islamic Jihad who Israel said were suspected of planning a major terrorist attack.
Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said at a press conference in Ramallah on Thursday evening that the PA had suspended security coordination with Israel in response to the raid by Israeli forces earlier in the day in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, in which nine Palestinians were killed.
Another Palestinian was killed Thursday by Israeli fire in separate West Bank unrest near Ramallah.
“We consider the security coordination to no longer exist,” Abu Rudeinah said. He added that the PA would turn to the United Nations Security Council and International Criminal Court to hold Israel responsible and called for a delegation from a UN Human Rights Council to investigate the matter.
The press conference followed an emergency meeting during which the PA leadership took what it described as a series of important decisions.
Abu Rudeinah’s announcement was delayed three times and finally happened 45 minutes after it was scheduled. According to sources in the PA, Abbas was under tremendous pressure from Washington not to announce any major decisions such as suspending the security coordination – pressure that was ultimately ignored, due to even greater pressure from the Palestinian street to respond forcefully to the events in Jenin.
Palestinian analyst Nour Odeh told The Media Line the current Israeli government was “responsible” for the uptick in violence, adding that it “promised brutality and they have to deliver.”
“This Israeli government is made up of extremist ideologues, they are drunk on power and impunity,” he said.
“They have faced absolutely no resistance from the international community when it comes to their anti-Palestinian agenda, and so they fear no consequences. They have been threatened with no consequences and they feel empowered to do as they please without worrying about what the world would do.”
Ghassan Khatib, Vice President for Development and Communications and lecturer of Cultural Studies and Contemporary Arab Studies at Birzeit University, told The Media Line that the new Israel’s far-right government “is bringing the area and Israeli-Palestinian relations into a very dangerous place.”
The new government in Jerusalem, he said, was “escalating the Israeli occupation’s violence and directly and indirectly encouraging an increase in [Israeli] settlers’ violence against the Palestinian people.”
Aside from its announcement on ending security cooperation with Israel, the PA has been unable to do much aside from issue its standard statements of condemnation.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, vowed that Israel would “pay the price” for the deadly Jenin camp operation, which targeted members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group who, Israel said, were suspected of planning a major terrorist attack.
Palestinians say the PA is incapable of providing security to its own citizens. “The ability to practically protect the Palestinian citizens is very limited,” said Odeh.
“Israel is a superpower militarily, economically, and politically. What the political leadership in Ramallah should be doing is looking inwards and fixing the mess that is Palestinian politics. This [is a] dismal situation of weakness, of division, of paralysis, of the inability to take action that would at least gain legitimacy among the Palestinian people who should be the source of legitimacy,” he said.
In some areas of the Palestinian territories, Palestinians took to the streets to protest the Israeli “massacre,” while a general strike was observed in several cities and towns.
“This cruel attack on the Jenin camp contains a message to the resistance and also a prelude to the new government political project in the West Bank, which includes settlements, Jerusalem and what is planned for it, and demolition in Area C,” Ramallah-based political analyst Esmat Mansour told The Media Line.
Area C is the section of the West Bank that under the 1995 Oslo II accord was placed under Israeli security and civilian control. It accounts for some 60% of the territory and is the location of the Israeli settlements.
“The margin is very narrow for power. PA lives in a situation in light of this attack and the Israeli military offensive, it is now living the reality that its existence is threatened and it fears that people’s anger will turn against it,” said Mansour.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned the IDF operation and demanded “an immediate halt” to such activity, urging the UN and other international bodies to work to “put an end to the repeated assaults against the Palestinian people.”
Turkey, meanwhile, expressed “sadness” over the loss of life in Jenin and said it was “deeply concerned” by increased tensions in the West Bank, calling on Israel to “prevent an escalation” in the region.
UN peace envoy Tor Wennesland also said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank.”
Thursday’s escalation came ahead of a scheduled trip to the region by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The top American diplomat was scheduled to visit Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories from Sunday to Tuesday to discuss heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as well as the war in Ukraine, the State Department said.
The US administration spoke publicly in support of the two-state solution, something that Palestinians brush aside as nothing more than lip service meant to pacify them, saying that US President Joe Biden is weak and incapable of exerting pressure on Israel.
“The narrative about the two states is so hollow, it’s becoming quite ridiculous and farcical,” Odeh said. “You don’t talk about two states when the agenda of the Israeli government is not only to reject Palestinian statehood but to deny the existence of the Palestinian people. You talk of consequences when you are serious and that’s not where the US administration is.”
Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister and peace negotiator, warned that violence is rapidly increasing and without immediate intervention from “external” parties, the situation will plunge into more chaos.
“We want them to convince and pressure Israel to come to terms with international law and the international legal expectations of an occupying power. We want them to convince Israel to keep the door open for a future two-state solution by stopping the expansion of settlements and killing of Palestinians,” he said, adding that the Palestinians in general have low expectations of the visit.
“We are not very optimistic because so far, the United States has stopped on the level of rhetorical criticism,” Khatib said.
Odeh, Khatib and Mansour all agreed that they expect little to come from Blinken’s visit.
“I don’t expect much. But this may be the last chance for the US administration to prevent chaos and an explosion,” said Mansour.
According to officials on both sides, at least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, most of them in the West Bank, making it the deadliest year for both sides since 2015.