The Palestinian president has defended his policy of security cooperation with Israel, despite Israeli forces escalating their crackdown in the occupied West Bank following the apparent abduction of three Israeli teenagers.
In a speech to senior Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the alleged kidnapping, saying it had caused heavy damage to the Palestinians and that his forces were helping the search for the missing teens.
Three teenagers, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, disappeared last week while hitchhiking home from Jewish seminaries in the West Bank.
While accusing Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, of exploiting the crisis to inflict pain on the Palestinians, Abbas said the coordination with Israel is a Palestinian interest as well.
Israel and the Palestinian leadership are know to coordinate meetings, and share intelligence and communication on security matters.
“We don’t want to go back to chaos and destruction, as we did in the second [Palestinian] uprising,” he told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah.
“I say it openly and frankly. We will not go back to an uprising that will destroy us.”
Abbas’s comments drew condemnation at home and highlighted one of his most controversial policies, working with the Israeli military to keep Hamas, which Israel accuses of carrying out the kidnapping, in check.
Hamas’ Gaza spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, slammed the Palestinian President saying his comments were based on a “Zionist narrative.”
Since accusing Hamas of being behind the apparent abduction, Israel has launched a widespread crackdown on the group, arresting scores of members while conducting a feverish manhunt for the missing teens.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson reporting from Ramallah said Israel had not presented any firm evidence proving Hamas’ involvement, but the crackdown was mainly targeting its members in and around the city of Hebron.
“No one has claimed responsibility for the missing teenages and no ransom has been made,” she said.
Israel’s incursion in the West Bank is the most extensive military ground operation in more than five years, with thousands of soldiers fanning out, searching some 800 locations and arresting more than 280 Palestinians, leading to violent confrontations.
On Thursday, soldiers clashed with Palestinians during an arrest raid in the town of Jenin, while forces opened fire at protesters at a nearby refugee camp.
The Israeli military also launched a series of airstrikes on sites in Gaza due to alleged “terror activity”.
Israel has said it is using the search for the missing to deliver a painful new blow to the remaining Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank.