For first time in years, Abbas visits West Bank refugee camp
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For first time in years, Abbas visits West Bank refugee camp

PA president and PM tour Jalazoun in what village’s leader calls ‘first response’ to Netanyahu’s declaration days earlier that he intends to start annexing settlements

(L-R) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas tour the Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank on August 10, 2019. (Wafa)
(L-R) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas tour the Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank on August 10, 2019. (Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a rare visit to a West Bank refugee camp on Saturday, touring the village of Jalazoun north of Ramallah.

He was flanked by PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary-general Saeb Erekat, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

Abbas reportedly met with local residents and officials, and posed for several pictures.

His office said it was his first visit to a refugee camp in several years.

Analysts say that Abbas’s PA is unpopular in several camps, where other Palestinian factions often have significant influence, due to his administration’s perceived inability to improve residents’ lives.

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, laying a corrnerstone for new housing units in Beit El, August 8, 2019 (Courtesy: Sharon Revivo/Likud)

His tour followed a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the nearby Beit El settlement Thursday after the murder of off-duty Israeli soldier Dvir Sorek in a terrorist attack close to the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz.

There, Netanyahu once again talked about the possibility of officially annexing West Bank settlements, a policy that critics say would effectively kill remaining hopes for a two-state solution.

Mahmoud Mubarak, head of the popular committee in Jalazoun camp, told AFP that Abbas’s visit was a “first political response to the Netanyahu visit to Beit El two days ago.”

“The visit was greatly welcomed by the camp’s residents,” he added.

Wafa said Abbas spoke to residents and said the Palestinian people would remain steadfast in opposing Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.

The refugee camps pre-date the establishment of the PA in 1994 and have high levels of local autonomy.

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