Abbas blames Palestinian attacks on despair, but Hamas credits ‘resistance’
Amid renewed wave of stabbings and car-rammings, PA president says ‘martyrs and youths’ behind assaults ‘have lost hope’
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that a lack of hope was behind a wave of stabbing attacks against Israelis, a claim that was swiftly contradicted by an official in the Hamas terror group, who attributed the attacks to Palestinians being “a people of resistance.”
Speaking to a group of Palestinian students and graduates on Venezuela’s Margarita Island, where he was attending a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, Abbas said Sunday that every day there are “martyrs and youth” picking up knives to attack “on their own accord,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
“Don’t trust those who say there are efforts to push them or incite them. Rather, they have lost hope,” said Abbas.
But Hamas spokesperson Usamah Hamdan took to Twitter to express his disagreement with Abbas, directing his criticism directly at the PA leader.
“To Mahmoud Abbas: Our young people carry knives of their own accord because they belong to a people of resistance, which is not vanquished by the assault of the occupier or security coordination with it,” Hamdan wrote. “It’s not because of despair.”
The statement by Abbas and counter-claim by Hamas comes amid a fresh spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Since Friday, six attacks have taken place — four stabbings, a car ramming and a rock throwing — catching many Israelis by surprise, as the violence that marked 2015 and early 2016 appeared to have waned in recent months, and raising fears that regular attacks could return.
Addressing the Palestinian students in Venezuela, Abbas reportedly called for “popular and peaceful resistance.”
“Our hands are outstretched in peace, but peace won’t come without a state with East Jerusalem as its capital and without [insisting on] the right of return,” the president added, referring to the Palestinian demand for some 5 million refugees to settle in what is today Israel proper.
Abbas has long called for “peaceful” resistance, and openly denounced violent attacks on Israelis. But the PA leader, along with many senior officials in his government, has been accused by Jerusalem of inciting violence.