Mahmoud Abbas open to playing role in Gaza if there is a solution for all of Palestine

After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Palestinian Authority president called for a ceasefire and for a possible subsequent pact to include the West Bank and East Jerusalem

Mahmoud Abbas
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at the Muqata in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, November 5, 2023.JONATHAN ERNST (REUTERS)

Israel continues its attacks on Gaza, 30 days after it began its air, sea and ground offensive in the territory. Its official objective is to wipe out Hamas — which killed 1,400 people in its October 7 attack — but the vast majority of the 9,770 fatalities in Gaza are civilians. On Sunday, Israeli warplanes hit the Maghazi refugee camp, killing at least 47 people, according to local Hamas officials. Meanwhile, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, has not ruled out returning to govern Gaza, which has been under Hamas’s control since 2007. He made this comment on Sunday in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a staunch ally of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Abbas conditioned this possible compromise on reaching a solution that encompasses not only Gaza, but also the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are occupied by Israel.

“We will fully assume our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the [occupied] West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” Abbas was quoted as telling Blinken by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. It is the first time during the current war that the Palestinian leader has expressed the PA’s readiness to be part of the solution.

In this way, the 87-year-old president intends to keep the three territories under the same negotiating framework. The Hamas attack not only dealt the biggest blow to Israel in its 75-year history, but also boosted the popularity of the Islamic resistance movement to the detriment of the increasingly embattled Abbas. In response to the October 7 massacre, Israel has laid siege to Gaza, but it is not clear who will rule the territory once its operation is over.

In the short term, after meeting with Blinken, the Palestinian leader demanded “an immediate cessation of the devastating war, and the acceleration of the provision of humanitarian aid, including medical, food, water, electricity, and fuel, to the Gaza Strip,” according to Wafa.

Abbas accused Israel of violating international law. “I have no words to describe the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law,” Abbas told Blinken in Ramallah.

Guerra Israel y Gaza
A Palestinian photographer (C) who lost his son in an airstrike at the Maghazi refugee camp, and others pray before the victims' bodies at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, in central Gaza Strip, November 5, 2023. HAITHAM IMAD (EFE)

Israel-Hamas war

Amid the escalating violence, Israel’s Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu expressed support for using the atomic bomb in Gaza, where 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion began on October 27. Eliyahu, who is a member of the most radical and ultranationalist wing of Israel’s Parliament, made the comment in response to a journalist’s question during a radio interview, reports AFP.

In another radio interview, he admitted that in any war, certain tolls must be paid, in reference to the possibility that the more than 240 Israeli hostages captured by Hamas may be killed. Almost immediately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office disavowed Eliyahu and suspended him from ministerial meetings.

Hamas reported late on Saturday that 60 of the hostages captured had been killed in the Israeli bombardment and that 23 of them had been buried under the rubble, according to a brief statement from Abu Obeida, the spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas. He did not, however, provide any data or evidence to corroborate these numbers. The fact that Israeli hostages remain in Gaza is a thorny issue for Netanyahu: several hundred people demanded his resignation while demonstrating in front of his residence in Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon.

Citizens and emergency services are still trying to recover victims from the rubble of the Maghazi refugee camp, which is at the geographic center of Gaza. It is therefore outside what Israel considers to be the main combat area: Gaza City, a Hamas stronghold, where most of the hostages are suspected to be detained.

Among the victims from the bombing of the camp is the family of Mohammad al-Aloul, a photographer working for the Turkish news agency Anadolu. He lost his four children in the bombing, as, as well as four of his siblings and his nieces and nephews. This is not the first time Israel has targeted a refugee camp. It also bombed Al Shifa hospital, the most important in Gaza.

Israel insisted Sunday that Hamas uses hospitals in and around Gaza as part of its infrastructure and that it also uses the population as “human shields,” according to military spokesman Daniel Hagari. During his speech, he showed photographs, videos and recordings that the army believes show that Hamas is attacking Israel from health centers. Hagari said that Israel warns the population before bombing an area.

Rafah closure

The Rafah crossing, on the border with Egypt, has been closed for a second day by Gaza authorities in protest against the Israeli attack on a convoy of ambulances heading to the crossing on Friday. The trickle of humanitarian aid that is coming into Gaza has been allowed to continue. This still, however, does not include fuel.

In the far south, on the border with Egypt, the last list of those authorized to cross the Rafah crossing was issued by the Gaza General Authority for Crossings early Saturday morning. It included nearly 600 names of nationals from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, but no crossings were recorded throughout that day. No further listings have been issued since then.

The Rafah crossing first opened its doors to foreigners and dual nationals last Wednesday and during the three days it remained operational, more than 1,100 people were able to leave Gaza and enter Egypt, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Egypt said Thursday that they were working to facilitate the evacuation of some 7,000 foreign nationals, from more than 60 countries, stranded in Gaza. Since Nov. 1, some wounded Palestinians have also been allowed to leave Gaza for treatment in Egypt, with just over 150 crossing Rafah during the first three days, according to the OCHA and local Egyptian organizations.

Since Israel allowed humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave on Oct. 21, after imposing a total blockade nearly two weeks earlier, 451 trucks have been able to enter, mainly carrying food, sanitation supplies, water, hygiene products, according to OCHA.

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