Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday paid a brief visit to the city of Jenin and its refugee camp, where he threatened to “cut the hand of those who tamper with the unity and security of the Palestinian people,” an implicit reference to his rivals in Hamas.The visit, which ended without incident, was hailed by Abbas loyalists as “historic” and “successful.”It was Abbas’s first visit to Jenin since 2012, when he arrived to offer condolences to the family of former governor Kadoura Musa, who died of a heart attack. It was also his first visit to the Jenin refugee camp since he was elected president of the PA in January 2005.
Abbas’s visit to Jenin and the refugee camp, which lasted less than two hours, came in the aftermath of last week’s IDF military operation, during which 12 Palestinian gunmen were killed and dozens wounded.Abbas and his entourage flew from Ramallah to Jenin aboard two Jordanian military helicopters. He was accompanied by several senior officials, including PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh and General Intelligence Service Chief Majed Faraj.
Senior representatives of the ruling Fatah faction, including Mahmoud al-Aloul and Jibril Rajoub, and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also joined Abbas on his visit to the city and its refugee camp,
Leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) did not attend the rally in the Jenin refugee camp, where Abbas addressed hundreds of people.
The official purpose of the visit was to follow up on efforts to rebuild the camp following the IDF military operation, according to PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh. But the visit was also designed to show that Abbas has not lost control of the situation in the northern West Bank, specifically the areas of Jenin and Nablus, where a number of armed groups affiliated with Hamas and PIJ emerged over the past 18 months.Abbas’s rare visit to the Jenin refugee camp came in the wake of growing criticism by many Palestinians over the PA security forces’ failure to protect the residents of the camp against the Israeli “aggression.”
Many doubted Abbas's visit to Jenin
Some Palestinians had expressed doubt that the 87-year-old Abbas would go ahead with the visit.On Tuesday night, rumors circulated in Ramallah that Abbas might call off the visit because his wife, Ameeneh, had been rushed to a local hospital for medical treatment. Abbas made a brief visit to the hospital, but there was no word about his wife’s health condition.Initially, some Palestinians said they were convinced that the story about Abbas’s wife being admitted to the hospital was intended to provide Abbas with an excuse to call off the planned visit to Jenin and its refugee camp.On the eve of Abbas’s visit, the PA deployed hundreds of security officers in Jenin and the refugee camp. On Wednesday morning, the officers were seen removing Hamas flags from the entrance to the refugee camp.Abbas also visited the local “Martyrs Cemetery,” where he laid a wreath on the graves of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces.In his speech, Abbas said he came to follow up on the “reconstruction” of the city and camp, “so they would be like they were and even better.”Carrying an olive branch in his hand, Abbas said: “We planted these olives, and we are taking care of them. If they [Israel] uproot one tree, we will plant 1,000 instead of it. This is Palestine, and this is the Palestinian people.”Abbas praised Jenin as “a heroic icon of struggle, steadfastness, and defiance” and described Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of Palestine.”“We will build an independent Palestinian state, and, I repeat, its capital will be Jerusalem, not Abu Dis,” he said.Abu Dis, a Palestinian town located southeast of Jerusalem, is located in the West Bank. In the past, the town’s name was mentioned as a possible site for a future capital of a Palestinian state.“We came to say that we are one authority, one state, one law, and one security and stability,” Abbas said. “We will cut the hand that tampers with the unity and security of our people.”His latest remark was seen as a warning to Hamas and other armed groups that have openly challenged Abbas’s rule in the northern West Bank. Abbas and some PA officials recently repeated their allegation that Hamas was plotting, with the help of Iran, to seize control of the West Bank.During the speech, some Palestinians chanted, “Katiba, katiba!” – a reference to the Jenin Battalion, a local militia armed and funded by PIJ. Others chanted, “To al-Quds [Jerusalem] we march, martyrs by the millions!” and “With our souls and our blood, we will redeem you, Abu Mazen [Abbas]!”During the visit, Abbas also met with commanders of the PA security forces and discussed with them the latest developments in the Jenin area and ways of restoring law and order.
Fatah activists said the visit indicated that the Palestinians and their leaders are “united” in the fight against Israel. They also said the visit proved that, contrary to claims by Israel and other parties, the PA has not lost control over Jenin and its refugee camp and that many Palestinians support Abbas and his leadership.“Those who thought President Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t dare set foot in Jenin refugee camp are undoubtedly very disappointed,” said Mustafa Ibrahim, a veteran Fatah member from Jenin. “The large and warm reception the president received in Jenin shows that Fatah remains the most popular faction among the Palestinians. The visit carries a message to Israel that the Palestinians won’t surrender.”Other Palestinians, meanwhile, dismissed the visit as insignificant and said it would not bring about substantial changes on the ground.“As soon as the security officers who came to Jenin from all parts of the West Bank leave, the situation will go back to where it was,” said a lawyer from Jenin. “The visit was good for Abu Mazen on the personal level because it showed that he can go anywhere he wants, even to a refugee camp controlled by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Yet, no one here expects him to order the security forces to arrest all the gunmen and disarm the armed groups. Abbas knows that would be crossing a redline.”