Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the deadly major Hamas infiltration and rocket attacks on Israel on Saturday by expressing his solidarity with Palestinian civilians and using the opportunity to level criticism at Israel.
An English-language report of his comments from the PA news agency Wafa made no mention of the Hamas onslaught. In several cities in the West Bank, meanwhile, Palestinians celebrated in the streets.
Early Saturday, Hamas launched a massive surprise attack on Israel, firing thousands of rockets and carrying out a major infiltration assault on several Israeli border communities. At least 200 Israelis were killed and 1,400 wounded by evening, with the toll expected to rise. Dozens of Israelis are also feared to have been captured by Hamas and taken back to Gaza.
The IDF launched a series of airstrikes on Gaza in response and issued a mass mobilization of reserves.
Abbas in Ramallah chaired an emergency leadership meeting of the Palestinian Authority, and according to the official news agency Wafa, “gave instructions to provide protection for the Palestinian people, stressing the right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves against the terrorism of settlers and the occupation forces.”
Abbas also “gave directions to provide all that is necessary to bolster the resilience and steadfastness of the Palestinian people in facing the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation and settler gangs.”
The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry tweeted a statement that “we have repeatedly warned against the consequences of blocking the political horizon and failing to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination.”
It blamed Israel for the “destruction of the peace process” saying that the “absence of a solution to the Palestinian cause” along with “the silence of the international community” to alleged Israel crimes “and the continuation of the injustice and oppression to which the Palestinian people are exposed is the reason behind the explosive situation and the absence of peace and security in the region.”
Abbas’s Fatah movement, which controls the Palestinian Authority ruling over the West Bank, has had a tense relationship with Hamas since the latter violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and removed all Fatah officials from the coastal enclave.
PA health minister in Ramallah May al-Kayla declared a state of emergency in all West Bank hospitals, saying that they are ready to receive the wounded from the Gaza Strip “as a result of the aggression launched by the occupation.”
Street celebrations took place in a number of West Bank cities, with images of gunmen from the Lion’s Den terror group distributing sweets to passersby in the Old City of Nablus to celebrate the assault.
Militants from the Lion's Den terror group distributing sweets to passers-by in the Old City of Nablus in the West Bank, celebrating the ongoing Hamas assault on Israel pic.twitter.com/GmXrY8wVKa
— Gianluca Pacchiani (@GLucaPacchiani) October 7, 2023
Celebrations were also held in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Egypt, in a foreign ministry statement, warned of the grave dangers of the current escalation, “following a series of attacks against Palestinian cities.” [sic]
Egypt, which often acts as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, said that the escalation could negatively affect future efforts for a ceasefire, and called for the use of the utmost restraint to avoid hurting civilians.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry in a statement expressed its “deep concern” over the developments and called on all parties “to de-escalate and exercise maximum restraint.”
The ministry said it “holds Israel solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.” It called on the international community to “compel Israel to stop its flagrant violation of international law” and to “prevent these events from being used as a pretext to ignite a new asymmetric war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”
Much of the international community expressed complete condemnation of the Hamas attack.
The United States “unequivocally condemns the unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians,” said White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.
“There is never any justification for terrorism. We stand firmly with the government and people of Israel and extend our condolences for the Israeli lives lost in these attacks,” Watson said.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken to Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and we remain in close contact with our Israeli partners,” Watson added.
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen said she “unequivocally” condemned the “terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel,” adding that it was “terrorism in its most contemptible form.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself against such an odious attack,” she said.
“This horrific violence must stop immediately. Terrorism and violence solve nothing. The EU expresses its solidarity with Israel in these difficult moments,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, and added that “civilians taken as hostages in their homes or to Gaza are appalling. This is against international law.”
We follow with anguish the news coming from #Israel. We unequivocally condemn the attacks by Hamas.
This horrific violence must stop immediately. Terrorism and violence solve nothing.
The EU expresses its solidarity with Israel in these difficult moments.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) October 7, 2023
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on social media that Germany “firmly condemns the terrorist attacks from Gaza against Israel.” Baerbock said Hamas “contributes to the intensification of violence,” adding that “violence and rockets aimed at innocent people must stop immediately.”
Israel “has our full solidarity” and “the right, guaranteed by international law, to defend itself against terrorism,” she added.
“The UK unequivocally condemns the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. The UK will always support Israel’s right to defend itself,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a post on social media.
Spain expressed shock over the assault. “We strongly condemn the extremely serious terrorist attacks from Gaza against Israel. We are shocked by this indiscriminate violence,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Ukraine also conveyed its solidarity with Israel, as the Ukrainian foreign ministry said on social media that his country “condemns the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel. We express our support for Israel in its right to defend itself and its people.”
Horrible news from Israel. My condolences go out to everyone who lost relatives or close ones in the terrorist attack. We have faith that order will be restored and terrorists will be defeated.
Terror should have no place in the world, because it is always a crime, not just…
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) October 7, 2023
Russia on Saturday urged restraint from all sides: “We are now in contact with everyone. With the Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the Russian private news agency Interfax, adding: “Of course, we always call for restraint.”
Italy said it backed “Israel’s right to defend itself” against the “brutal attack” from Gaza, adding that it “condemns in the strongest terms the terror and the violence underway against innocent civilians.”
The French foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest possible terms the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel and its population.” The French foreign ministry “expresses its full solidarity with Israel and the victims of these attacks. It reaffirms its absolute rejection of terrorism and its commitment to Israel’s security,” it said.
A statement of condemnation also came from the Czech Republic, while India urged its nationals in Israel to observe safety protocols set by Israeli authorities and stay close to shelters.