PARIS (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will prevent any uprising in the occupied West Bank despite escalating tensions with Israel, his foreign minister said on Friday.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told Reuters that a massive Israeli military sweep following the disappearance of three Jewish youths a week ago were unacceptable, but said Abbas would continue assisting Israel in an effort to end the crisis.
“We will do our utmost to help because if the situation continues as it is, this will end up (with) the destruction of what we have built in Palestine,” Malki said.
Malki also warned that a recent reconciliation deal with the Islamist group Hamas would be threatened if, as Israel said, it was responsible for abducting the three youths as they hitchhiked near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
After seven years of feuding, Abbas’s secular Fatah movement and its rival Hamas agreed earlier this month to the formation of a unity government, but the disappearance of the seminary students has put an immediate strain on their accord.
“If Hamas is behind it, and nobody knows up until now, then it will be a blow to the reconciliation process,” Malki said. “If we reach that conclusion, then the president will take drastic decisions,” he said, without elaborating.
Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel, has not confirmed or denied accusations that it was behind the abduction.
Some Hamas officials have warned of an Intifada (uprising) if the Israeli raids continue. Two Palestinians have died in the military crackdown this week and violent clashes have broken out in various locations. Israel says it has arrested some 330 Palestinians, including 240 from Hamas.
Malki said that although the Israeli reaction “went beyond logic”, the Palestinian Authority was committed to peace.
“I can assure you that as long as President Abu Mazen is in charge, there will be no third Intifada,” he said, referring to Abbas. However, he acknowledged that the president’s credibility might be undermined because of his decision to help Israel.
Underscoring tensions in the West Bank, security forces loyal to Abbas broke up a pro-Hamas rally in Hebron on Friday, using riot shields and batons to disperse the small crowd.
Malki urged foreign governments to denounce Israeli “atrocities”, saying their silence gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the green light to destroy, kill (and) upset the life of all the Palestinian people”.
Israel has promised to dismantle Hamas’s operations in the West Bank, saying it has clear evidence the group was behind the abduction. It has not given any further details and officials say in private they have no idea where the youths might be.
Editing by Brian Love and Crispian Balmer