IDF chief said to warn West Bank ripe for major violent outbreak
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Ministers warned of a '60-80 percent' chance of escalation

IDF chief said to warn West Bank ripe for major violent outbreak

Highlighting severity of threat, Gadi Eisenkot reportedly says scenario would require more troops than Gaza fighting; could be fueled by Abbas speech to UN

Illustrative: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center-right, meets with senior officers in the IDF Southern Command, including IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, center, and Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, right, on June 12, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Illustrative: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center-right, meets with senior officers in the IDF Southern Command, including IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, center, and Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, right, on June 12, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reportedly warned ministers this week that a major outbreak of violence was likely among Palestinians in the West Bank, due to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ waning political influence and declining health.

During Sunday’s high-level security cabinet meeting, Eisenkot said a flare-up of attacks in the West Bank would require more troops than an escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the severity of the threat, according to a Hadashot television report on Thursday evening.

He estimated there was a “60-80 percent” chance of such a scenario unfolding, according to the report.

The TV report attributed the increased likelihood of a surge in violence to Abbas’ loss of international support from both the United States and Arab states; internal Palestinian pressure to clinch a reconciliation deal with Hamas and mounting frustration over the perception that PA forces were aiding Israel to curb terrorism, but were receiving nothing in return; and the 83-year-old Palestinian leader’s health woes.

According to the report, Eisenkot cautioned that a “combative” Abbas speech next week at the UN General Assembly in New York could fuel lone-wolf Palestinian terrorism.

An Israeli soldier fires a rubber bullet towards Palestinian protesters during clashes near Nablus, in the West Bank on July 13, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/ JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

The television report also suggested Eisenkot was critical of recent US steps vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority. He urged Israel to improve the economic situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and stressed the importance of resolving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while suggesting Washington was not fully aware of the repercussions of its pressure on the Palestinians, the report said.

On August 31, the Trump administration announced it is cutting nearly $300 million in planned funding for the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, and that it would no longer fund the agency after decades of support. Since then, it has also withdrawn funding for East Jerusalem hospitals and coexistence programs, and shuttered the PLO mission to Washington.

Eisenkot’s warning on Sunday came as a Palestinian teenager fatally stabbed American Israeli Ari Fuld, 45, in the Etzion Bloc, shattering months of relative quiet in the West Bank.

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