Tensions are running high in the West Bank after Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, a move that could be behind a recent uptick in violence in the West Bank.
As soon as Abbas made his announcement, Hamas castigated the president and called for a large march on Friday to protest the postponement in a clear attempt by Hamas to pressure the PA.
The incitement may also be the reason for two terror attacks in the West Bank in the past few days.
Three Israelis were injured in a drive-by shooting attack at a checkpoint near Nablus. A Palestinian fired from a car that was being driven by another person and fled, and he is reported to have shouted “God is great” before the shooting.
The Israeli military confirmed that it returned fire at the attacking vehicle and on Tuesday arrested several suspects in connection with the attack.
In a separate attack, Fahima al-Hroub, a 60-year old Palestinian woman, tried to stab Israeli soldiers with a knife on Sunday. After failing to heed several warnings and refusing to drop her weapon, the woman was shot and transported in a reportedly critical condition to a hospital in Jerusalem. She later died from her injuries.
After the two attacks, Hamas praised the attackers and called on all Palestinians in the West Bank and on Arabs in Israel to escalate terror attacks against Israelis.
Settlers in the West Bank retaliated by throwing stones at passing Palestinian vehicles.
The past few weeks have been strained after the onset of TikTok videos showing young Arab men attacking religious Jews in Jerusalem and then nightly riots after Ramadan outside Damascus Gate – until Israeli police removed barriers last week.
While Abbas’ Fatah party fears that the rival Islamist terrorist organization Hamas would have won the elections, as it did in 2006, Abbas officially blamed the postponed elections on Israel for not allowing Arab residents of Jerusalem to cast ballots in the PA elections.
Abbas is widely unpopular and his Fatah party is widely seen as highly corrupt among many ordinary Palestinian Arabs.
Abbas declared that elections would be postponed indefinitely until “the participation of our people in Jerusalem is guaranteed.”
But by officially blaming Israel and using the Jerusalem ballots issue as a convenient excuse, Abbas postponed the threat of Fatah being supplanted by its rival Hamas.
The PA wants to establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, in practice, both Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat have rejected numerous two-state peace proposals. The PA has also been accused of disseminating anti-Semitism, delegitimizing the Jewish state’s existence and rewarding anti-Israel terrorism with its controversial pay-to-slay policy.
Nevertheless, during the year 2020, Israel experienced a record low number of terrorist attacks, likely due to COVID pandemic restrictions imposed across the region.