PA removes police stationed near Jerusalem, as Gaza said to freeze ties too

PA removes police stationed near Jerusalem, as Gaza said to freeze ties too

Report indicates goods and aid to Strip may be blocked from entering; Hamas leader jubilant over new crisis between Israel, Ramallah

The West Bank town of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The West Bank town of Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinian security forces were retreating from areas near East Jerusalem Friday after the Palestinian Authority ended its security coordination with Israel, multiple reports indicated, citing Palestinian officials.

According to Kan news, the gesture was largely symbolic — a few officers moving out of the East Jerusalem satellite towns of Azzariyah, Abu Dis, Biddu and Beit Ichsa, after getting special permission from Israel to be there as part of the effort to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

East Jerusalem is under Israel control, and PA forces are not regularly allowed to operate there. It appeared that PA forces were hoping to avoid any potential confrontations with Israeli forces now that coordination had been halted.

Top Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, who leads the terror group’s West Bank activities, said Thursday night that the organization “welcomes [Abbas’s] decision to stop security coordination,” and added that he hoped “this time it will be serious.”

He claimed that “the return of the resistance to the West Bank is very possible and closer than what people imagine.

“We stand at the gates of… the outbreak of a new uprising,” he said.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 news reported that Gaza officials had also halted all ties with Israel, putting the ongoing transfer of goods and humanitarian aid into Gaza in doubt.

Trucks passing through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering the Gaza Strip from Israel. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

That announcement came even as United Nations officials told Kan they would seek to transfer medical aid recently brought from the United Arab Emirates into the Strip. The coronavirus aid had originally been intended for the West Bank but PA sources told multiple Arab media outlets they had refused it, as it arrived on the first known direct commercial flight between the UAE and Israel.

Palestinian media quoted a government source Thursday saying the aid had been rejected, explaining Ramallah was refusing to be used as a “tool for normalization” between Israel and the UAE.

Israeli sources confirmed Thursday that the PA was making good on its threat to end security coordination with Israel over the new Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

In addition to security cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces, civil ties between Israel and the PA were also set to cease.

Defense officials warned that the halting of cooperation between Israel and the PA could lead to rising violence, with more clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians.

The severing of the agreements came after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday the Palestinians were no longer bound by agreements with Israel and the US, citing the new government’s plan to move forward with annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley as early as July 1.

For years, Abbas has made similar threats on numerous occasions to end security ties with Israel and dissolve the PA, but never followed through.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the UN Security Council at the United Nations headquarters on February 11, 2020 in New York. (Johannes EISELE / AFP)

Hours before the move was confirmed by Israeli sources, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh met Thursday with the heads of Palestinian security forces to discuss ending the coordination with Israel.

“Israel’s annexation of any parts of the West Bank constitutes an existential threat to the Palestinian national project and an end to the two-state solution,” he said, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Shtayyeh charged that Israel “breached international law and violated all the agreements signed with us” and therefore “we will no longer abide by these agreements.”

Widespread reports said Palestinian security forces had withdrawn from the West Bank’s Areas B and C to Area A, which is under full PA control.

Area B is under Israeli security control, with certain exceptions where Palestinians maintain limited security control, while Area C is fully administered by Israel.

Also Thursday, a senior Palestinian official announced the PA’s security services will stop sharing information with the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The PA government cut all other ties with the Trump administration in 2017, accusing the US president of pro-Israel bias for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who previously served as CIA chief, said Wednesday he hoped security cooperation would continue.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh addressing a press conference in Ramallah on March 29, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

The decision to also end security ties with the US was in protest of the administration’s endorsing of Israeli annexation in parts of the West Bank within the framework of its peace plan.

Those areas include Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley — a key strategic area that makes up around a third of the West Bank.

Palestinians say the US plan ends prospects for a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to go through with annexation has led to condemnations from a growing list on countries, including Arab states such as Jordan and European nations like France and Germany.

AFP contributed to this report.

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