Jenin, occupied West Bank – Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has visited the Jenin refugee camp, a week after a 48-hour Israeli assault and days after some of his senior officials were driven away from a funeral procession by large crowds angry at the PA’s response to the attack.
The official PA news agency, Wafa, said Abbas, who arrived by helicopter on Wednesday, made the visit “to check citizens’ conditions and progress in the reconstruction of the camp and the city following the last Israeli aggression”.
Flanked by presidential guards, 87-year-old Abbas addressed crowds at the camp in his first visit to Jenin since 2012.
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“The heroic Jenin camp stood against the aggression, sacrificed its casualties and offered all it has for the sake of the homeland,” Abbas said, promising that the camp would be rebuilt.
Members of Fatah, the party that Abbas leads, welcomed the president’s visit.
Nidal Nanaieh, a Fatah leader in the camp and a former fighter who took part in a 2002 battle with Israeli forces there, said Abbas’s visit was a “show of support” for the camp.
“This historic visit was made to show that all Palestinians are standing by the Jenin refugee camp and that there is a unified Palestinian stance,” Nanaieh told Al Jazeera.
But others have not been as positive.
“We would have wanted him to stand with us at all times, not just in this instance,” Saidah, a camp resident, said. “When the Israeli army was here, where was he? Why did he leave us to fend for ourselves? … Our kids are gone. There are martyrs. There are prisoners in Israeli jails.”
“Tomorrow we will replace the doors and windows and rebuild. But we wanted him to be with us from the beginning. What is the point of his visit?”
Another man who did not want to be identified also shared that perspective.
“When the president came, I stayed home because I knew his visit would not make any difference,” the man told Al Jazeera. “My home was destroyed. Where should me and my family go? Abbas only came for a photo opportunity.”
Last week, Israeli forces launched the largest attack on the Jenin refugee camp since the 2002 battle. Drone-fired missiles and hundreds of soldiers pounded the camp for three days, killing 12 Palestinians, including three children.
At least 3,000 people fled their homes while dozens of houses were shelled, and widespread destruction was caused to roads and other infrastructure.
Soon after the raid, three top Fatah officials, including Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Aloul, visited the camp, only to be driven away from a funeral by mourners chanting, “Get out! Get out!”
Their anger highlighted the deep unpopularity of the PA, particularly in the Jenin refugee camp. For the past two years, Israeli forces have launched a series of deadly raids on the camp as well as other areas in the northern occupied West Bank while settler attacks have increased. This has led to increasing criticism of the PA for its perceived lack of ability to defend or protect Palestinians.
The PA was created under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel. It was formed as an interim, five-year governing body meant to lead to an independent Palestinian state consisting of the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
However, the Israeli occupation and restrictions, Israeli settlements and illegal land grabs are among the factors that have prevented the formation of a Palestinian state.
Today, the PA retains largely administrative control over only 18 percent of the occupied West Bank and can do nothing to stop Israeli raids.