As cross-border violence flares, Abbas cuts trip abroad short
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As cross-border violence flares, Abbas cuts trip abroad short

Palestinian Authority orders medicines be shipped to Gaza; diplomatic source says ceasefire efforts ‘still ongoing’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at PA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 15, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at PA headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 15, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to cut short his travels abroad amid the spiraling violence in the Gaza Strip, Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh said Tuesday.

Abbas arrived in Kuwait on Monday for what were supposed to be two days of meetings and events, the official PA news site Wafa reported. 

“The President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas decided to shorten his trip abroad and return to the homeland to follow the developments and Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip,” Sheikh said. 

Following an Israeli operation that went awry in Gaza on Sunday, which left one Israeli soldier and seven Palestinian fighters dead, terrorist groups in the coastal enclave shot off hundreds of rockets at Israel.

The IDF responded by targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure in Gaza, the army said. 

A Palestinian man was killed by a Gaza rocket attack on Ashkelon, and the Magen David Adom ambulance service said it had treated 28 people injured in attacks from the Gaza Strip since Monday.

Six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire since Monday and 25 were wounded, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said.

A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows a convoy of Israeli tanks on the highway near the southern Israeli town of Sderot (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

At least four of the six Palestinians killed by Israel were members of terrorist groups in Gaza, as acknowledged by the military wings of Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. 

Abbas also has been in contact with officials “on all levels” to ensure “the halt of the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the protection of our people,” Sheikh added. 

Egypt informed Israel on Monday that it must stop its “escalatory operations” in the Gaza Strip, Wafa reported, citing a high-level Egyptian source.

UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov said on Monday that the UN was working with Cairo and other parties to return calm to the region.

On Tuesday, a diplomatic source said in a text message that efforts to return calm “are still ongoing.”

Earlier in the day, a senior Israeli government official denied that the Jewish state was involved in ceasefire talks.

“We’re not talking with them about a ceasefire,” the official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also ordered that medicines be sent to Gaza, PA Health Minister Jawad Awad said on Tuesday, according to Wafa. 

Since April 2016, Abbas has withheld some PA budgets allocated to Gaza to pressure Hamas to give up control of the coastal enclave.  In the past several months, he also threatened on several occasions to cut off all PA budgets for Gaza.

There are shortages in Gaza of more than 150 types of medicines, said Mahmoud Daher, the head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office. 

“We are in particular need of medications for chronic diseases,” Daher said in a phone call. “Any medicines sent here will help with the shortage.” 

Daher said influenza medications sent by the PA arrived in Gaza on Monday. 

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