PA: Tensions in Hebron could erupt

PA officials: Abbas considering calling on UN Security Council to hold urgent meeting on matter.

Abbas hung over 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas hung over 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday called on the Israeli government to pull all the settlers out of Hebron and warned that the growing tensions in the city could erupt into an all-out confrontation. PA officials in Ramallah said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas might request an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Hebron, following the recent attacks by settlers against Arab residents. In a message to the members of the Quartet, Abbas condemned the assaults as a "despicable crime" against innocent civilians and demanded that the international community exert pressure on Israel to remove the settlers from the city. "The presence of the Jewish settlers in the city is a serious provocation," the PA officials said. "Unless the [Israeli] government removes them from the city, there will be a big explosion." Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, accused the IDF of "collusion" with the settlers in the attacks on Palestinian residents of Hebron. He said that the latest violence in the city was part of an "organized terrorism campaign" against the Palestinians. The settlers, Abu Rudaineh added, "constitute a real danger to the Palestinians and their lands." A PA security commander in Hebron said the settlers' actions were threatening to foil the PA security forces' efforts to impose law and order in the city and its surroundings. "The Israeli government's failure to stop the settlers is threatening our security plan," he said. "We have been working hard to restore law and order and our efforts have thus far been very successful. But what the settlers are doing now poses a major threat to our efforts." The official added that he was particularly surprised by the IDF's "soft" handling of the settler violence. "When an Arab throws a stone, the Israeli soldiers often open fire at him," he pointed out. "But when a Jew attacks the homes of Palestinians and throws stones at them, the soldiers hardly do anything to stop him." Sources in Hebron told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that at least 15 Palestinians were lightly wounded in clashes with settlers in the previous 48 hours. Amer Abdeen, a news photographer who was among the wounded, said that scores of settlers hurled stones at him near the disputed Beit Hashalom Monday night. He added that he was treated at the local Alya Hospital for bruises. Abdeen and other eyewitnesses accused the settlers of making derogatory remarks against Islam and the prophet Mohammed. They also claimed that three Palestinian men were lightly wounded after being attacked by dogs belonging to the settlers. Fahmi Za'arir, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused the settlers of exploiting the upcoming general elections in Israel to create new facts on the ground. "The settlers are trying to seize as much land as possible," he charged. "But we are determined to foil their plans." Za'arir said the recurrent settler attacks on Palestinians "showed the urgent need to remove all the settlers from the West Bank as a prerequisite for a peace agreement in the future." Samira Halayka, a legislator from Hebron, accused Israel of waging a campaign aimed at driving the Palestinians out of Hebron. She said that over 100,000 Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled part of the city were facing daily threats and attacks by the settlers and IDF soldiers. She also condemned the Arab world for "failing to raise its voice" against the settler violence.