Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday called the fathers of two Palestinian gunmen who were killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops in the West Bank, and expressed his condolences.
In a video of the phone call, Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh is seen with the bereaved fathers, handing over a phone with Abbas on speaker.
“We are all mourning,” Abbas is heard saying. “That is our destiny and we can’t escape it. We must make sacrifices for the homeland,” he adds.
“Your son will reach heaven together with the other martyrs,” Abbas said, addressing one of the fathers.
“May God bless all martyrs,” he added, before concluding the call.
Israel’s Channel 12 said the phone call was seen by the broadly unpopular Abbas as an opportunity to make some internal political gains — hence its filming and circulation on Palestinian social media.
אבו מאזן שוחח עם אבותיהם של שני החמושים ההרוגים הלילה בשכם וניחם אותם על מות בניהם, שיבח את הבנים ואמר "זו דרכנו, להקריב למען המולדת". לאחד מהאבות אמר: "הוא (ההרוג) עכשיו בגן העדן עם השהידים" pic.twitter.com/NERE6zHG8I
— Nurit Yohanan (@nurityohanan) July 24, 2022
The two men who were killed Sunday were identified online as Aboud Sobah and Muhammad al-Azizi. According to Prime Minister Yair Lapid, they were “terrorists who recently carried out a string of shooting attacks” against Israeli troops.
While no group immediately claimed them as members, Channel 12 said they were members of Abbas’s Fatah movement who were recently influenced and possibly recruited by the Islamic Jihad terror group, which has grown increasingly influential in the West Bank in recent years.
Israel has long accused Abbas’s Palestinian Authority of encouraging terrorism and militant activity by publicly honoring gunmen and attackers and by paying stipends to their families if they are killed or jailed in Israeli prisons.
Abbas scrapped elections scheduled for last year, citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, which Palestinians seek as their capital.
But Palestinian analysts said Abbas balked out of fear that the rival Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, would also trounce Fatah across the West Bank.
In May, Hamas won 28 of the 51 seats on the student council at Birzeit University, marking the first time candidates aligned with the Islamist terror group have gained control of the body. Fatah used to dominate student councils in the West Bank.
Emanual Fabian and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.