Israel, PA set for Sunday summit in Egypt as terror alerts rise before Ramadan

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Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian and Jordanian officials are due to meet on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for a summit aimed at helping to foster regional calm ahead of the sensitive period of Ramadan, which begins this week next.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi is to lead the Israeli team, as he did at a previous summit in Aqaba, Jordan in February. Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and Brig. The Gen. Ghassan Alian, the military liaison with the Palestinians, was also present.

Israel pledged to halt new settlement projects at the Aqaba talks, according to a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly denied there would be any construction freeze across the Green Line.

According to the joint reading from last month’s meeting, Israel and the Palestinian Authority also agreed to de-escalate tensions and prevent further violence ahead of the Muslim holy month. The two sides agreed to “work immediately to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months,” said the reading of that meeting.

A top PA official told The Times of Israel that Jerusalem had also committed to handing over millions of dollars in tax revenue it had withheld from the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, but had not done so.

“They promised at Aqaba that they would transfer all the funds, but right now we haven’t received anything,” PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said in early March. Al-Sheikh also serves as secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is one of the closest advisers to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

View of the Old City, Al Mustafa Mosque and the Red Sea at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. (ioanna_alexa, January 30, 2020, iStock images by Getty)

Al-Sheikh then lamented that even the promises put in writing in the communiqué were not being taken seriously by the Israeli government. This, he said, put the planned follow-up in Sharm el-Sheikh at risk.

According to a report on Friday, with Ramadan starting next week, senior security officials have warned the government of increased warnings about possible terrorist attacks by Palestinians, expressing frustration at the behavior of some of its members as helpless,

Haaretz said that in a recent meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, military officials said that Israel’s ongoing internal unrest, the decline in popularity of the Palestinian Authority, an increase in Jewish nationalist attacks and the actions of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir all contributing to his highly volatile state in the West Bank.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seen at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, March 9, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to the paper, the army leaders spoke in particular about the police minister Ben Gvir, who ordered the increased demolition of illegal construction in East Jerusalem. Such a move was made a week before Ramadan, they said, without considering the possible security consequences and the recommendations of security chiefs.

Ben Gvir promised to take a more aggressive stance against Palestinian homes built without the necessary permits from Israel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has outlined the demolition of such structures as part of Israel’s efforts to combat Palestinian terror, although there were no links between the owners of razed houses due to lack of permission in recent weeks and security offenses.

He is said to have clashed with the military, the prime minister and top police officers over his maximalist approach.

Shortly after three Israelis, including brothers aged 6 and 8, were killed in a ramming attack in Jerusalem last month, Ben Gvir said he told police to prepare for a major counter-terrorist crackdown in East Jerusalem within days. , comparing his plans to the massive 2002 military campaign against West Bank terrorist groups. However, Ben Gvir did not have the authority to approve such an operation on his own and a senior government official dismissed his comments.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting almost nightly raids on the West Bank amid a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Palestine. Those tensions have escalated further in recent weeks, with a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.

On Thursday, four Palestinians, at least two of whom were members of terrorist groups, were shot dead by undercover Israeli forces during a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, the military and Palestinian media reports said.

In a joint statement with the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security agency, police said that members of the Yamam elite counter-terrorist unit entered Jenin and that two “neutralized” men wanted Palestinian guns, after receiving information about their whereabouts. .

The Palestinian Authority’s health ministry said four people were killed and at least 23 others were injured in the raid, five of them seriously.

According to the Shin Bet, one of the wanted men was involved in promoting “significant terrorist activity”, while the other was involved in the production of explosive devices and shooting by IDF forces in the West Bank.

Police said Yamam officers opened fire and killed a third suspect who tried to attack forces with a crowbar, and fired at various other guns in the area.

Graphic footage taken from a building above the scene showed the undercover forces shooting one of the wounded gunmen lying on the ground in the head at close range.

Israeli forces shot dead a wounded Palestinian in the West Bank city of Jenin, March 16, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

On Sunday, Israeli troops killed three members of the Nablus-based Lion’s Den terror group.

Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and many others injured.

At least 84 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them in attacks or clashes with security forces, but some were unrelated civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

Over the past year, groups based in Gaza – particularly Islamic Jihad – have fired rockets at Israel in response to members killed or captured in the West Bank.

Emanuel Fabian and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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