The current tensions in the Jenin area could lead to further escalation between Palestinians and Israel, Shami al-Shami, a senior official with the ruling Fatah faction, warned on Sunday.
Shami, a resident of the city of Jenin, told The Jerusalem Post that if there is no change in the near future, “The situation will escalate and we will see more killings and destruction.”
Shami, a former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the parliament that has been inoperative since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is considered a popular leader of Fatah in the Jenin area. He also has close relations with the various armed groups, especially those based in the Jenin refugee camp.
Shami spoke to the Post shortly after the IDF carried out another raid on the Jenin Refugee Camp early Saturday, during which 17-year-old Amjad al-Fayed was fatally shot. Shami said he and other Palestinians did not rule out the possibility that the IDF would launch another major operation in the Jenin refugee camp, similar to the one that took place during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
Such an operation, he cautioned, would lead to more death and destruction on both sides.
“It seems that the Israeli army has a plan to drain out the fighters in the Jenin camp through continuous incursions,” he said. “We expect the army to lay siege to Jenin and the refugee camp, but only after completely wearing out the resistance fighters.”
The gunmen in the camp, he said, belong to “national and Islamic factions, and most of them are very young people.”
Asked whether the armed wing of Fatah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was involved in the fighting against the IDF, he said, “The position of Fatah is that it’s a duty to resist the occupation. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are part of the struggle; they have lost some of their members, while others have been imprisoned [by Israel].”
He said that he has no doubt that the Jenin area is headed towards further escalation, “whether by the army or the resistance fighters.”
In order to restore the calm, the Fatah official added, the Israeli government must stop the military incursions into Jenin and the refugee camp, hand over the bodies of Palestinians killed by the IDF or while carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel, and achieve progress in the political process with the Palestinians.
Shami rejected the widespread belief that the Jenin area has once again become a hotbed for terrorism.
“We are not terrorists,” he argued. “Resistance is a legitimate right guaranteed by international conventions. Those who are carrying out killings and demolitions are the terrorists. For every action, there is an opposite reaction.”
Shami said that despite the tensions, his message to the Israeli government is that it needs to work toward achieving progress in the peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and “break the current stalemate.”
“The tensions and absence of peace talks don’t serve the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians,” he stressed. “Everyone wants to live in peace and security.”