Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Dizengoff terror attack in Tel Aviv that left two Israelis dead on Thursday night.
“The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a further deterioration of the situation, as we are all striving for stability, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and the upcoming Christian and Jewish holidays,” Abbas said in a statement carried by official PA media.
Two Israelis — childhood friends Tomer Morad and Eytam Magini, both 27 — were killed in the shooting spree on Dizengoff Street. Numerous others were wounded.
It was the second time Abbas has condemned Palestinian terrorism in recent weeks. Abbas slammed a similar attack in Bnei Brak in late March that left five Israelis dead in almost identical terms.
While Ramallah works closely with Israel to crack down on Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank, Abbas rarely publicly denounces specific acts of violence. Opinion polls regularly find large swathes of Palestinian society that view armed struggle as legitimate resistance to Israeli rule.
After Abbas’s last denunciation, a Fatah official described to The Times of Israel how the decision to condemn the violence had placed some in the movement in an “embarrassing position before their families and hometowns.”
The attacker, Ra’ad Hazem, hailed from the West Bank city of Jenin. His father Fathi, a former Israeli security prisoner and ex-officer in the PA’s security services, praised his actions in a speech to a crowd that gathered in front of his home.
“Your eyes will see the victory soon. You will see change. You will achieve your freedom… God, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the desecration of the occupiers,” said Fathi, who served at one point as an officer in Ramallah’s security forces.
The Dizengoff shooting was the latest in a string of violent terror attacks in Israel. Eleven Israelis and two Ukrainians have been killed in the violence, which has hit Israeli cities from southern Beersheba to downtown Tel Aviv.
Thursday’s attack came on the eve of the first Friday of Ramadan, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to arrive in Jerusalem for Friday prayers.
Officials and analysts have warned for months that this year’s Muslim holy month could see rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Both Passover and Easter — major Jewish and Christian festivals, respectively — are set to fall at the same time.
Last year, clashes during Ramadan between Palestinians and Israeli forces helped spark the war between Israel and Gaza terror groups.
In his remarks Friday, Abbas also said extremist Israelis may seek to commit revenge attacks and warned against the “repeated incursions” at the Temple Mount holy site and the “provocative actions of extremist settlers.”
Muslims revere the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located on the Temple Mount, as the third holiest site in Islam, and prayer there is a resonant Ramadan tradition for many Palestinians. The hilltop is also Judaism’s holiest site as the spot on which both Biblical temples were built.
A fragile status quo has prevailed at the sacred sanctuary for decades which permits Israeli Jews to visit but not to worship. Nationalist-religious Jews have increasingly patronized the site, sparking Palestinian ire.
“The cycle of violence confirms that a permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest and most correct way to provide security and stability for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples,” Abbas said.
Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were quick to celebrate the shooting attack on Thursday, although no group has taken responsibility.
The Hamas terror group called the attack a “heroic operation” and vowed that “resistance” against Israel “is continuing and escalating.”