Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledges to rebuild Jenin after Israeli raid

Nada al-Taher

The National  /  July 12, 2023

The refugee camp in the city suffered heavy damage during Israel’s military operation against militant groups.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promised to rebuild Jenin and its refugee camp during his first visit to the city in 10 years on Wednesday, following two deadly Israeli raids in recent weeks that left at least 17 dead and more than 100 wounded.

Abbas said his visit was to check on residents and the progress of reconstruction at the camp following widespread damage caused by the Israeli military during a two-day operation last week, state news agency WAFA reported.

Meetings scheduled with various local committees were cancelled for “personal reasons”, Jenin’s governor said. Abbas’s wife was taken to hospital on Tuesday evening.

Abbas arrived in a Jordanian military helicopter at 12.30pm. He was received by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Interior Minister Ziad Hab al-Reeh amid a heavy security presence.

“We will rebuild Jenin city and its camp better than it was before,” he said in a speech to crowds as flags of the ruling party, Fatah, and Hamas could be seen around Jenin camp.

“We will remain resilient and we will not leave.”

Abbas thanked Algeria and the UAE for their support for Jenin.

He left the camp at 1.30pm.

Abbas’s previous visit to the camp was in 2004 when he was running for president.

Signs placed on roads ahead of his visit said: “Welcome to his excellency, the President, Mahmoud Abbas.”

Minutes before Abbas landed, arrangements were being made at the cemetery where some of the people killed in the latest raid were buried, including the laying of artificial grass on the ground leading up to the graves.

Unconfirmed reports said 1,000 Palestinian security force members were sent to Jenin ahead of his visit.

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said last week that about 80 per cent of homes in the camp were damaged or destroyed in the Israeli military operation launched on July 3.

Israel said the two-day offensive, including the use of drone strikes, was aimed at militants groups in the densely populated camp. It followed another deadly raid on the camp on June 19 in which Israel used aerial strikes in the West Bank for the first time in the nearly 20 years since the Second Intifada. Raids in Jenin and elsewhere in the occupied territory have become a nearly daily occurrence since an escalation in Israeli-Palestinian violence began more than a year ago.

The June 3 raid drew international condemnation for the use of excessive force in a heavily populated civilian area, including from the UAE and other Arab states, the UN, and the Europe European Union.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Israel’s use of air strikes was inconsistent with the conduct of law enforcement operations.

He said that Israel “as the occupying power” had a responsibility to ensure that the civilian population is protected against all acts of violence.

“It simply bolsters radicalization and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed,” he said,

The UN said eight kilometres of water pipes and three kilometres of sewage pipes were destroyed as Israeli bulldozers tore up the streets to uncover hidden explosive devices. More than 100 houses and several schools were also damaged.

Leni Stenseth, deputy commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), made an urgent plea for funds to help rebuild the camp.

“To restore services and scale up support to the children, we need cash. Our appeal is desperately underfunded,” she said.

In response, Algeria announced a $30 million donation to help rebuild Jenin, while the UAE pledged $15 million.

Nada al-Taher is a senior foreign reporter at The National