Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror attack in Elad that left three Israelis dead on Thursday night, the official PA WAFA news agency reported.
“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a further deterioration of the situation, at a time when we all strive to achieve stability and prevent escalation,” Abbas said in a statement.
Abbas has long advocated nonviolent resistance and negotiations with Israel rather than organized terrorism, but officials in the PA and his Fatah group have been repeatedly blamed by Israeli governments for inciting violence, and the PA leader has rarely denounced specific acts of terror. Surveys regularly show many Palestinians see “armed struggle” against Israel as legitimate.
During the recent terror wave, however, Abbas has condemned three of the deadliest killing sprees committed by West Bank Palestinians. The string of terror attacks has taken the lives of 19 Israelis and foreigners residing in Israel since mid-March, the deadliest such violence in years.
In his statement late Thursday, Abbas also cited recent tensions at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque holy site. The mosque, the third holiest place in Islam, lies on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred site as the place of the biblical temples.
The PA leader condemned “the continuous attacks against our people and their Islamic and Christian holy sites which have created an atmosphere of tension and instability.”
Earlier on Thursday night, two terrorists attacked several Israelis in mostly ultra-Orthodox Elad, apparently with an ax and a knife. Police officers have said their “working hypothesis” is that the terrorists — who have yet to be publicly identified — are West Bank Palestinians.
The attack came at the end of Israel’s Independence Day, and followed a wave of terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks, and repeated threats by Palestinian terror groups over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Police launched a manhunt for the two suspects and blocked off several roads in the area. In a statement, a police spokesperson said a helicopter was being used to search for a vehicle that had fled the scene. But as of midnight, the suspects had yet to be apprehended.
The Hamas terror group, which opposes Abbas, immediately praised the attack in Elad. Hamas officials blamed Israel for allowing hundreds Jewish visitors to worship at the Temple Mount holy site earlier on Thursday.
Both Muslims and Jews lay claim to the holy site, rendering it an explosive, contested flashpoint.
Palestinians and Israeli forces have clashed repeatedly at the Temple Mount over the past few weeks. The violence echoed scenes from last year, when rioting helped spark a May 2021 war between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas.
Hundreds of Jewish Israelis visited the site on Thursday morning for the first time since Passover, and Palestinians there clashed with police. The site had been closed to Jewish visitors for the end of the Ramadan holy month for the previous week and a half.
Hamas had threatened to retaliate if Jewish visitors were allowed to “storm” the holy site.
“Our people have not and will not stand silent in the face of the ongoing the targeting of our holy sites and our Aqsa,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.
Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar gave an hour-long speech on Saturday threatening Israel over “violations” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also urged Palestinians to strike Israelis with whatever they had — including axes.
“Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it. And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an ax, or a knife,” Sinwar said.
Following the deadly terror attack, Israeli security officials extended the closure on West Bank and Gaza Palestinians until Sunday, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday night.
The decision came during a snap meeting of Israeli security chiefs to discuss responses to the stabbing attack in the central Israeli city of Elad, which left three Israelis dead and wounded several others.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed that the defense establishment “would exact a price for the terror attacks and the incitement,” without providing details.
The closure was put in place on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of Memorial Day and Independence Day, and was supposed to end at midnight on Thursday. The policy effectively means that Palestinians with work permits cannot enter Israel; checkpoints for Israelis into and out of the West Bank remain open.