Abbas: Israel blackmailing PA on prisoner issue

PA president accuses Israel of exploiting the suffering of Palestinian prisoners jailed before 1993 Oslo Accords.

Mahmoud Abbas UN 370 (photo credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
Mahmoud Abbas UN 370
(photo credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday accused Israel of blackmailing the PA leadership on the issue of Palestinian prisoners.
He also called for an emergency meeting of Islamic countries to discuss Israeli “aggression” against the Aksa Mosque.
The Palestinian Authority president said Israel has agreed to the gradual release of only a limited number of prisoners who were jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
His allegation came during a meeting in his Ramallah office with families of dozens of veteran prisoners who were jailed before the Accords.
Abbas told the families that Israel was exploiting the suffering of their sons to “blackmail” the PA leadership, but did not elaborate.
He said that the PA’s priority was to secure the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, especially those incarcerated before 1993, and those who were ill.
The meeting came after families of the prisoners accused the PA leadership of not doing enough to secure the release of their sons.
Also Saturday, Abbas accused Israel of launching a “fierce assault” on the mosque in Jerusalem.
He was referring to riots that erupted on the Temple Mount following Friday prayers, during which Muslim worshipers hurled stones at policemen and the Western Wall compound.
Police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the rioters.
Abbas appealed to the Islamic Cooperation Organization, which represents 57 countries, to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the incident, according to a statement issued by the PA president’s office.
In Cairo, the Arab League announced its support for Abbas’s appeal, Palestinian envoy to the league, Muhammad Sbeih, said.
Sbeih said that the Arab League was following the “unfortunate actions carried out by Jewish extremists under the protection of the occupation police and the aggression on worshipers and Al-Aksa.”
Abbas’ charge that Israel launched a “fierce assault” on the Temple Mount was refuted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman. Mark Regev said Israel acts in a “restrained and measured manner” when it comes to violence on the Temple Mount.
Unfortunately, he said, Palestinian leaders don’t help matters when they make “ridiculous comments” about alleged Israeli designs or actions on the Temple Mount.
This is “playing with fire,” Regev said. “We urge them to stop in, and urge friends of the Palestinians in the West who know their claims are rubbish, to call them out on this and also call on them to stop it.”
One government official, referring to Abbas’ accusation that Israel was using the Palestinian prisoner issue to blackmail the PA leadership, denied the charge, and said that within the framework of a peace process moving forward, Israel was ready for “mutual, parallel, confidence building measures.”