Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has issued instructions to rebuild the house of the Abu Hmaid family that was demolished by the IDF in the al-Ama’ari refugee camp near Ramallah, Hussein al-Sheikh, member of the Fatah Central Committee, announced on Saturday.
The announcement came shortly after the IDF demolished the four-story building belonging to Islam Yusef Abu Hmaid, a camp resident who threw a marble slab at the head of Staff Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky, who was subsequently killed by the blow.
The PA, Hamas and other Palestinian groups condemned the demolition of the house as a “crime” and urged Palestinians to continue their “resistance” against Israel.
“President Abbas has issued direct instructions to immediately rebuild the house of the Abu Hmaid family in the al-Ama’ari refugee camp,” al-Sheikh told reporters in Ramallah. Abbas will travel to Amman on Sunday for talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah on the latest developments in the West Bank, he said.
Abbas, he added, was conducting intensive regional and international contacts in an effort to stop Israeli “aggression and settler terrorism” against the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian leadership will not stand still in the face of this frenzied onslaught targeting our people, first and foremost the Palestinian leadership because of its rejection of schemes aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause,” al-Sheikh said. He also called on Hamas to “take advantage of this historic phase” to achieve unity among the Palestinians.
PA minister Walid Assaf, who heads the Palestinian “Commission for Resisting the Wall and Settlements,” also announced plans to rebuild the demolished house. Speaking at a press conference near the demolished building, Assaf said that a “national committee” would be formed to rebuild the Abu Hmaid house as soon as possible.
“Our people will not accept the policy of collective punishment imposed by the occupation against women and children in order to appease the settlers,” Assaf said. “We also won’t accept the policy of demolishing houses of citizens.”
However, several residents of the camp said on Saturday that they were also angry with the PA. "We didn't see one Palestinian policeman during the Israeli raid," complained Abu Ashraf, who said he was a Fatah activist who had spent three years in Israeli prison. "We are calling on the Palestinian leadership to immediately halt security coordination with the Israeli enemy."
Another camp resident, Ahmed Abu Kwaik, said that the demolition of the house will "spark a new intifada" against both Israel and the PA."We're fed up with the Palestinian Authority's empty statements of condemnation," he said. "The Palestinian Authority is not doing anything to protect our people."
The PA government again held Israel fully responsible for the recent upsurge of violence and condemned the demolition of the Abu Hmaid house as a form of collective punishment. Yusef alMahmoud, spokesman for the Ramallah-based government, called for providing international protection for the Palestinians, “whose lives and properties are being endangered by the Israeli occupation forces.”
Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, also vowed to rebuild the demolished house and said that the Israeli “assaults will only increase the steadfastness of our people.” He said that the mother of Islam Abu Hmaid was the “mother of the Palestinian people, and we learn from her steadfastness and patience.”
The senior Fatah official, who is touted to succeed Abbas as president of the PA, claimed that Israel was targeting the Palestinian leadership because of its refusal to accept Israeli “schemes.” He also lashed out at Hamas and accused it of seeking to instigate “secondary internal conflicts instead of confronting the occupation.” Aloul was referring to demonstrators organised by Hamas supporters in Hebron and Nablus on Friday to mark the movement’s 31st anniversary.
Addressing Hamas, he said: “You either join the Palestinian people in their resistance against the occupation, or you sit and wait to see what happens. But we won’t allow you to drag us to secondary conflicts, because our conflict is with the occupation.”
Dozens of Palestinians staged a sit-in strike inside the Abu Hmaid house late Friday in a bid to prevent the IDF from demolishing it. IDF soldiers who arrived at the camp shortly after midnight evicted the protesters, as well as several families living close to the building. The families were taken to a nearby school, where they held until the demolition was completed in the early Saturday morning. The mother of Islam Abu Hmaid, 73-year-old Um Nasser, told reporters that she was sacrificing her home for the sake of Palestine and its people.”We won’t collapse and we won’t surrender,” said the mother, who has six sons in Israeli prison. A seventh son, Abdel Mun’em, was killed by the IDF. All were convicted of carrying out a series of terrorist attacks against Israelis in the past three decades.
In a related development, Palestinian activists on Saturday called for staging a sit-in strike inside the house belonging to the family of Saleh Barghouti, who was killed by the IDF last week on suspicion of involvement in the Ofra shooting attack in which seven Israelis were wounded. The prematurely born infant of one of the women wounded in the attack died four days later. Barghouti is from the village of Kobar in the Ramallah area.