Amid West Bank tensions, PA official and Shin Bet head said to meet
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Amid West Bank tensions, PA official and Shin Bet head said to meet

Hussein al-Sheikh reportedly meets Nadav Argaman to discuss deescalation after string of attacks and retaliatory raids, tells him IDF and settlers are ‘massacring’ agreements

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

Israeli security forces and forensic experts inspect the scene of a terror shooting outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 13, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli security forces and forensic experts inspect the scene of a terror shooting outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 13, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hussein al-Sheikh, a top Palestinian Authority official, has met with Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and other senior Israeli security officials to examine ways to lower tensions in the West Bank, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday, citing Palestinian sources.

Without disclosing names, Sheikh told Palestine TV, the official PA television channel, that Palestinian and Israeli officials had held a meeting Monday.

“We sent a very clear message that the dangerous escalation targeting the occupied lands is unacceptable for us and that we will not stand by idly in the face of this dangerous escalation targeting our cities, villages and refugee camps,” he said, adding that the “behavior” of the IDF and settlers was “massacring” signed agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Sheikh, a fluent Hebrew speaker and the PA official in charge of liaising with Israel on civil matters, has frequently represented the Palestinians in meetings with senior Israeli officials.

File: Head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh sign an agreement to revitalize the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, January 15 2017 (COGAT)

A string of terror attacks took place in the West Bank and Jerusalem last week, resulting in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and a baby boy who was delivered prematurely after his pregnant mother was shot, as well as leaving several others injured.

In the wake of the attacks and amidst manhunts for suspects, Israeli security forces killed the alleged gunman from October’s Barkan terror attack and partially demolished his home, and killed the man believed to have been behind the shooting which led to the baby’s death. They have also raided Ramallah several times and demolished the home of a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli soldier in May.

Last Wednesday, security forces shot dead the suspected gunmen behind the baby’s death in a village near Ramallah after he tried to attack them, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Late Thursday, security forces also shot dead the alleged gunman from the Barkan attack after he opened fire on them, the Shin Bet said.

Meanwhile, settlers lobbed rocks at Palestinians driving along Route 60, the West Bank’s main thoroughfare, and in some cases, targeted homes in Palestinian villages.

Head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman attends the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, November 6, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

According to Kan, Jordanian officials told the Palestinians they have encouraged Israel to rein in its actions in the West Bank.

“The Jordanians informed the Palestinians they conveyed a message to Israel that if it continues with its moves in the West Bank, that will lead to a more complicated situation and greater violence and tensions,” the report said, quoting a Palestinian source.

Sheikh told Palestine TV that Jordan and Egypt had exerted pressure on Israel to stop “the dangerous escalation” in the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah are slated to meet on Tuesday in Amman.

The Kan report cited Palestinian sources saying that despite the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, Abbas has instructed PA security forces to maintain security coordination with their Israeli counterparts.

Abbas has expressed support for Israeli-Palestinian security coordination on a number of occasions.

He told Israeli peace activists in a September meeting that Palestinian and Israeli security forces work together “on a daily basis” and that he and his people “do anything possible so that no Israeli gets hurt,” according to Peace Now, whose executive director attended the meeting.

Israeli troops search for the terrorists who committed a shooting attack on a bus stop outside the Ofra settlement in the West Bank, near Ramallah, in which seven Israelis were injured, including a pregnant woman, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

However, at a rally in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Hamas Politburo chairman called for an end to security cooperation between Israel and the PA.

“Stopping security coordination with the Zionist occupation is needed,” he said. “It is not permissible for the security coordination with the Zionist occupation to continue, which acts ruthlessly against our people, Judaizes our Islamic and Christian holy sites and arrests our youth.”

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