PA praises evacuation of Hebron home

Officials call on Israel to evacuate all settlers from city; Palestinians warn violence could spread.

hebron 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
hebron 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday welcomed the evacuation of the settlers from Hebron's Beit Hashalom building, but expressed deep concern over the increased attacks on Palestinian residents of the city. Meanwhile, a number of armed Palestinian factions threatened to launch attacks on settlers in the West Bank in response to the violence in Hebron. The PA issued strong condemnations against the settler violence and urged the international community to intervene with the Israeli government to stop the attacks. The PA also called on the government to evacuate all the settlers from Hebron and warned that their continued presence in the city would trigger more violence. PA officials in Ramallah said the swift evacuation had caught them by surprise. They said the Israeli authorities had not notified the PA of the operation in advance, thus denying the Palestinian security forces the chance to take measures to defend Palestinian families against settler violence. "The Israeli government made a huge mistake by failing to coordinate the evacuation of the settlers with the Palestinian Authority," said a senior PA official. "Now the Israeli authorities bear the responsibility for the aggression against dozens of Palestinian families." The official warned that unless the IDF took immediate measures to halt the settler attacks, "the Palestinians would be entitled to use all available methods to defend themselves." Another PA official said that the settler attacks "played into the hands of Hamas" and undermined the PA's standing among the Palestinians. Many Arab residents of Hebron criticized the PA security forces for failing to use their weapons to stop the settlers. Ahmed Qurei, head of the PA negotiating team, warned that the violence in Hebron could spill over to the rest of the West Bank. He called on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss ways of protecting the Palestinians against the "crimes" of the settlers. Qurei also launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government and the IDF for failing to take tough measures against the settlers. Hussein al-A'araj, the PA governor of Hebron, strongly condemned the attacks on the homes of Palestinians following the evacuation. He said the IDF was responsible for the deterioration because of its "failure" to stop the assailants. "The Palestinian families living in the area of the Rajabi [Beit Hashalom] house are under Israeli control," he noted. "The Israeli army is responsible for their safety and security." PA security officials warned that the attacks by the settlers could ignite a "new intifada" in the city and other parts of the West Bank. "The situation in Hebron is on the verge of an explosion," said a PA security commander. "All our efforts to restore law and order in the city are now at stake because of the Israeli army's failure to stop the settlers."