Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Sunday that Israel’s continued campaign against Hamas in the West Bank could spark a popular violent uprising that could spiral out of control.
“Israel’s continued destructive actions, including shooting innocent Palestinians in cold blood, while Ramadan is around the corner and the situation on the Palestinian street is explosive, can only serve to ignite the West Bank and take things out of control,” Abbas was quoted as saying by Meretz Party head Zehava Gal-On, who spoke with him by telephone.
Abbas’s statement followed a pre-dawn protest in Ramallah that turned violent.
In a highly unusual move, dozens of young men threw stones and metal rods at a PA police station. PA security forces responded by firing in the air at the protesters.
The IDF also clashed with Palestinians in Nablus and Ramallah during overnight raids that have become a part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, the ongoing search for abducted Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
The operation’s two-fold agenda is to weaken Hamas’s hold in the West Bank and to search for the three Israeli teens, whom the terrorist group kidnapped on June 12 from Gush Etzion.
In Nablus the IDF killed a Palestinian man, Ahmad Famawi, 26, who had approached soldiers and initially appeared to them to be dangerous.
It was later determined that the man was mentally impaired.
Palestinians claim that the IDF killed Mohamed Attallah, 30, during clashes in Ramallah early Sunday.
Israel in turn has charged that he was killed in clashes between PA security forces and Palestinian forces after the IDF left the city.
A spokesman for the PA security forces said that an autopsy conducted Sunday on Attallah showed that he had been killed by a bullet from an M-16 assault rifle. He said that the PA security forces do not use this type of weapon.
Israel said it is still investigating the matter.
Palestinians have also reported two other deaths.
Early Friday morning Palestinian medics said Mohammed Dudin, 15, was killed in the village of Dura, near the city of Hebron.
The Israeli military said troops had fired live ammunition when rocks and firebombs were thrown at them during an arrest raid at the time of his death.
On Saturday, a Palestinian man died of a heart attack after the IDF searched his home.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the deaths of Palestinian bystanders in the IDF raids, when he spoke Sunday morning before the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We have no intention of deliberately harming anyone, but our forces are acting as necessary for self-defense and from time to time there are victims or casualties on the Palestinian side as a result of the self-defense actions of our soldiers,” Netanyahu said.
Abbas on Saturday night reiterated his opposition to the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens and said he is working to return them to their families.
Abbas told a conference of Arab journalists in Ramallah that the kidnapping was “unjustified and unacceptable.”
He said that the Israelis should view the Palestinians in the same way “and that we are human beings like them.”
Abbas condemned the killing of three Palestinians in the West Bank over the past week.
“You are human beings and so are we. When there is a kidnapping, we work to return these people. But you should not allow your soldiers to kill three Palestinian youths. This is not the first time.”
Abbas said that almost every day the PA security forces find an Israeli who lost his way on the streets of the West Bank.
“We return them to their families within 10 minutes,” he said. “We hope they would treat us likewise.”
Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the IDF conducted nine security raids in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, arresting nine suspects, and targeting five Da’wa civilian Hamas outreach bodies.
“We’re getting more and more evidence that Da’wa is linked to terrorist activities,” a senior IDF source said. “You can see the direct link between the civilian activity and terrorism,” he said.
In northwest Hebron, paratroopers were continuing to scan the area and searching for the missing teenagers. “We think we will spend another day or two in this area. Then, we will weigh up the rest of the activity,” the source said.
A senior army source familiar with searches carried out in recent days by the elite Yahalom Combat Engineering unit told on Sunday of the arms found in West Bank searches.
“We found homemade grenades, which are as deadly as industrially produced grenades, homemade explosives and weapons labs,” the source said.
“We were not surprised. We knew this existed in homes where families live. On the first floor, the family resides, and on the third floor is a weapons production lab,” he said.
The Yahalom unit has also taken part in searches of caves in the Hebron area, the source said.
“We divided the unit into company-sized battle crews, headed by a company commander.
Each commander has been allocated a particular area,” he continued. “The whole of the unit is in Judea and Samaria.”
“We found dozens of weapons storage areas,” the source said. The unit also uncovered underground structures, hidden under ordinary household items, such as washing machines.
On Sunday, the IDF, with the help of PA security forces, recovered the remains of a drone that had crashed in Hebron.
Gal-On on Sunday called on Netanyahu to halt the IDF’s operation against Hamas and to focus the IDF’s energy exclusively on finding the three teens.
“I call on Netanyahu to stop actions that are not directly connected to bringing back the captives,” she said.
“Netanyahu must strengthen Abbas, who made a commitment to Israel, and leave us a diplomatic horizon for the day after the captives are brought home,” she said.
Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis said Abbas’s words are meaningless as long as he continues to have Hamas in his unity government.
“Leadership is tested in actions, not words, and if Abbas wants to prove his leadership, he should remove Hamas from his government before Hamas removes him,” Akunis said.
Hamas officials said Sunday that Palestinians are headed toward a third intifada against Israel.
Hussam Badran, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said that Palestinians are closer than ever to a “direct confrontation” with Israel.
He said that continued construction in the settlements, economic hardships and continued crackdown by the Palestinian Authority on freedoms and Hamas members are bringing the Palestinians closer to a third intifada.
Badran accused the PA security forces of working with the IDF against Hamas members in the West Bank.
Another Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, said that Palestinians are preparing for a new intifada against Israel.
He warned Israel against committing any “stupid act” against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Al-Masri said that the IDF operation in the West bank would increase Hamas’s determination to “continue the path of resistance.” He too attacked the PA security forces for conducting security coordination with Israel.
Reuters contributed to this report.