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PA official urges peaceful resistance, adds ‘our fingers are on the triggers’

Jibril Rajoub says march against annexation will be carried out Monday despite new coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub at a press conference in Ramallah on June 21, 2020 (Screenshot/Palestine TV)
Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub at a press conference in Ramallah on June 21, 2020 (Screenshot/Palestine TV)

Fatah’s strategy for resisting Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank is peaceful “popular resistance,” but “our fingers are on the triggers,” senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said on Sunday.

“We will not raise a white flag,” Rajoub said in remarks at a press conference in Ramallah.

Peaceful resistance, he said, is important to ensuring international support for Palestinian efforts to thwart the planned annexation and maintaining what he called a “clash” between the international community and Israel in the present situation.

“We do not believe in a transition to the ‘bloody square’, as we do not believe it serves our cause at this moment,” Rajoub said.

In the event of annexation, however, those conditions might change, Rajoub warned.

The move, which the Israeli government says could begin as early as July 1, has set off a confrontation between Jerusalem and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. The PA has tried to organize popular resistance and international pressure to prevent Israel from proceeding with the plan.

Protests against Israel’s bid to annex parts of the West Bank will take place as planned on Monday in Jericho. Rajoub said “national assemblies” are exempt from the strict coronavirus regulations placed on the area over the weekend.

“I fervently hope to see participation by all Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip or in Jerusalem, and in the Palestinian diaspora — each according to his circumstances,” Fatah Secretary-General Rajoub said in remarks delivered at a press conference.

A previous attempt by the PA to organize a popular protest in Ramallah against Israel’s planned annexation was something of a flop. Despite heavy media coverage and nearly two hours of speeches by officials, only a couple hundred protesters showed up at the demonstration in the Palestinian capital.

Moreover, the announcement of the latest protest comes amid wide-ranging lockdowns imposed to combat an emerging second wave of coronavirus in the West Bank.

After a day with 108 new virus cases confirmed across the West Bank — a record-high number — part of a trend of rising infections, PA officials announced Saturday that social gatherings would be banned across the entire West Bank. Mosques and other public buildings were closed throughout the area, and workers were being asked to stay home as much as possible.

At a press conference Saturday evening, PA Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the cities of Hebron and Nablus, at the core of the new outbreak, would be subject to even tighter restrictions. Hebron governorate has been cordoned off from the rest of the West Bank for at least the next five days, with no one and nothing allowed in or out except for essential food and goods.

The city of Nablus was ordered into a similar lockdown for two days to prevent the spread of the virus, Shtayyeh said; Nablus Governor Ibrahim Ramadan told residents to stay within 150 meters of their homes.

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

Protesters would not be expected to violate those lockdowns in order to attend marches, Rajoub told reporters.

“We do not expect people to arrive from [West Bank] areas that have registered coronavirus cases, but wherever the virus has not yet appeared, come by private cars or in trucks,” Rajoub said.

The main protest will take place as planned in Jericho, Rajoub said, with representatives from the European Union, the United Nations, and Jordan in attendance.

So far, only two coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Jericho and the Jordan Valley, Palestinian government spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim announced on Sunday. In Hebron and Nablus, however, there were 280 and 26 cases, respectively, considered to still be active.

An additional 43 cases were confirmed in the West Bank on Sunday afternoon, raising the total number of reported infections to 827.

“Our participation in the march will absolutely be in accordance with Health Ministry instructions, with regard to social distancing, masks, and gloves and obedience to all safety guidelines,” Rajoub said.

He also called for protests in the Palestinian diaspora Monday in front of Israeli and US embassies, saying that the protest was not limited to Fatah, but was rather intended for all Palestinian factions.

Rajoub also attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he said acted with “the logic of a neighborhood gangster.” While Netanyahu may have been democratically elected, “so were Hitler and Mussolini,” he said.

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