Palestinian Authority Urges Israel to Avoid Collective Punishment for Soldier's Murder

Israel's response to the murder of 19-year-old yeshiva student and soldier could have a significant impact on the situation in the West Bank, PA security official says

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank, July 2019.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank, July 2019. Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / Reuters
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority has so far kept mum about the attack overnight Wednesday in which a 19-year-old Israeli was murdered, and a PA security official attributed this reticence to lack of knowledge about the circumstances.

“To date, we’ve only heard fragments on information, and the picture still isn’t clear even to the Israelis,” he said. “Therefore, it’s better for us to await developments.”

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The official also warned Israel against imposing collective punishments on West Bank residents, citing threats by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to intensify protests.

How Israel responds to the attack could have a significant impact on the situation in the West Bank, he said, especially given the timing.

Border Police troops in the Gush Etzion area in the West Bank where Dvir Sorek was murdered, August 8, 2019. Credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters

The Eid al-Adha holiday is this weekend, and preparations are in full swing. The West Bank’s economy is already in poor shape, he noted, and Israeli military operations would merely increase the pressure.

In contrast to the PA, terrorist organizations openly praised the killing of Dvir Sorek, a yeshiva student and out-of-uniform soldier who was stabbed to death en route to his yeshiva. His body was found on the road to Migdal Oz, a part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

“The attack in Gush Etzion is an operative response to talk of annexing the West Bank,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said. “The Palestinian people will ultimately expel the occupier.”

Hamas also urged the PA to end security coordination with Israel, “begin real, operative resistance on the ground and lead the Palestinian public in a comprehensive popular struggle.”

Islamic Jihad deemed the attack “a heroic operation that sends courageous and important messages and supports the prisoners and detainees.” The Popular Resistance Committees termed it “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”

An activist in the ruling Fatah party from the Bethlehem district said senior PA officials aren’t hiding their frustration or their fears of the attack's impact.

“We’re in a difficult position,” he said “On one hand, the PA is under great pressure because of the lack of a diplomatic horizon, and there’s no positive momentum in the diplomatic sphere. On the contrary, every day we hear about arrests and demolitions and assaults on the PA’s authority. On the other hand, Hamas is getting a tailwind in Gaza. This is a situation that can only lead to a clash and an explosion.”

Earlier on Thursday, residents of the village of Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, said a large Israeli force had entered, searched homes and businesses and confiscated cameras.

But the mayor, Akram Takatka, said he wasn’t aware of anyone being arrested. He also said that as far as he knew, the soldiers hadn’t imposed any restrictions on people entering or leaving the village.

Palestinians said the troops also searched other villages in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas, including Halhul and Beit Omar.

Palestinians driving in the Gush Etzion, Bethlehem and Hebron area were stopped on the road so their cars could be searched.

The PA has ordered its liaison offices not to cooperate with what it termed Israeli gestures in honor of the Eid al-Adha holiday, in line with its decision to halt cooperation with Israel.

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