In its first public comment on the abduction of the three Israeli yeshiva students in the West Bank last Thursday, the PA on Monday issued a statement condemning both the kidnapping and subsequent Israeli security measures.
The statement was published shortly after a phone conversation between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during which they discussed the latest developments surrounding the kidnapping.
“The Palestinian leadership condemns the series of events that took place in the last week, starting from the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers and ending with the series of Israeli violations, including the [hunger] strike of the prisoners or the raids on Palestinian homes and assaults by settlers and the occupation army, which led to the martyrdom of a Palestinian youth and the crackdown on many innocent people,” the statement said.
The statement was referring to the death of Ahmed al-Sabarin of Jelazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, who, according to Palestinian sources, was shot by IDF soldiers early Monday.
The statement reaffirmed the “need to refrain from violence by any party, especially since the president’s position is to continue working extensively to release Palestinian prisoners.”
The Palestinian leadership also praised efforts by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank to “maintain law, calm, and stability and prevent Palestinians from being dragged into a state of chaos and instability and to stop any party from exploiting the situation for non-national goals.”
Meanwhile, Fatah officials in the West Bank denied any connection to the kidnapping of the three youths.
The denial came in response to a pamphlet published by Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which said that the youths were in safe hands. The pamphlet said that the three would be released in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
A senior Fatah official in Ramallah said that the pamphlet was “fabricated” and did not represent the faction’s stance. The official told The Jerusalem Post that the pamphlet was part of an attempt to “create confusion in the Palestinian arena.”
Hamas on Monday strongly condemned the continued Israeli security crackdown on its representatives in the West Bank as a “cowardly act.”
Responding to the arrest of dozens of its members in the West Bank, Hamas said in a statement that the crackdown was a “flagrant violation of all international conventions and a cowardly act that exposes the spirit of defeatism” among Israeli leaders.
“The frivolous occupation reaction of arresting Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and holding them hostage won’t achieve any goal,” the Hamas statement said. “It will only increase our people’s determination to proceed with their steadfastness and resolve until they achieve their demands and legitimate goals.”
Hamas called on the PA to reject the mass arrests in the West Bank and immediately stop security coordination with Israel.
The organization also appealed to the Arab and Islamic countries to “denounce Zionist crimes” against the Palestinians.
Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said that his movement was “honored” to be accused by Netanyahu of being behind the kidnapping of the Israeli youths.
However, he pointed out, Hamas has not claimed responsibility for this “honor.”
He also rejected any description of the kidnapped youths as “teenagers,” insisting they are “soldiers.”
Another Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, Ahmed Bahar, warned Israel of the consequences of arresting the Hamas men in the West Bank.
“The abduction of the [Hamas] legislators is a political crime and a violation of international law,” Bahar told reporters in Gaza City during a sit-in protest to express solidarity with striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The Palestinians, he added, are entitled to “resist occupation with all available means.”
The Hamas official urged PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to order an immediate halt of security coordination be tween the Palestinians and Israel.