Ramallah (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned violence against civilians on Thursday in the wake of the devastating attack by Hamas gunmen on Israel and the relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip by Israeli jets that followed.
The comments, made during a visit to Jordan, come ahead of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and mark a shift from Abbas’ previous failure to condemn Saturday’s attack, during which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed.
“We reject the practices of killing civilians or abusing them on both sides because they contravene morals, religion and international law,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Abbas as saying.
He said the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited governance in the occupied West Bank and which has long been opposed to Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls Gaza, stood against violence and would pursue political action to achieve its goals.
On Thursday, Blinken added his voice to international condemnation of the attack but said he knew that Hamas did not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations.
The West Bank, which Palestinians want as the core of a future state, has seen a wave of violence for more than 18 months that has fuelled fears of a repeat of the two Palestinian Intifadas or uprisings of the 1980s and early 2000s.
As Israel has reeled from the impact of Saturday’s unprecedented assault by Hamas gunmen, in which more than 1,200 Israelis were killed and Gaza has been subject to the most intense bombardment it has ever seen, the West Bank has been ominously volatile.
More than 30 people have been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since Saturday and security forces are braced for further violence ahead of Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Both Fatah, the faction which controls the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which has a strong presence in the West Bank, called for a “day of rage” protest on Friday.
The mosque, on a site in the Old City of Jerusalem holy to both Muslims and Jews who know it as the Temple Mount, is one of the most sensitive places in the Middle East and the trigger for repeated confrontations.
On Thursday, a Palestinian man was shot dead just outside the Old City after he apparently fired at a police station, Israeli police said.
Earlier, Israeli settlers in the West Bank killed two Palestinians when they opened fire on a funeral procession. A 37-year-old woman was also killed when she was shot by security forces near Ramallah, the main city in the West bank, according to Palestinian health services.
Reporting by Ali Sawafta; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonat