On July 14, 2017, three Israeli Arabs carried out a shooting attack at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing two Israeli policemen. Following the attack, Israel closed the compound for two days.
Despite Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's expressing, in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his "staunch opposition to and his condemnation of what happened at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and stress[ing] that he opposed any act of violence on the part of any side, especially in places of worship," there has been no other condemnation on the part of PA officials. The main focus of their reactions, and reactions in the PA press, to the attack has been harsh criticism of Israel's policy regarding the Palestinian issue and expressions of understanding for the attackers, along with a focus on Israel's closure of the compound and its ramifications – and not the attack itself.
Some PA officials showed understanding for the motives of the attackers, which, they said, stemmed from Israeli policy and the hopelessness of the political process. Palestinian cleric 'Amad Hamatu even praised the attack on the official PA TV channel. Fatah too, which 'Abbas heads, stressed, on its Facebook page, the importance of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, with a video segment of a 2014 speech by 'Abbas in which he called to prevent settlers from entering the Al-Aqsa compound by all possible means. Also in the PA press, the emphasis was on Israel's closure of the compound, with the main argument being that Israel had taken advantage of the attack to change the status quo at the compound. 'Abbas's condemnation was covered in the Palestinian press, but under headlines stressing that he "demands that Israel's measures to close Al-Aqsa stop."
The PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida stood out for its publication of several articles condemning the attack because it harmed the Palestinian interest and served Israel.
Unsurprisingly, Hamas and the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Raed Salah, praised the attack.
The following is a review of reactions in the PA and in Hamas to the attack and its aftermath:
'Abbas Opposes, Condemns The Attack
As mentioned, following the attack, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas expressed, in a phone call with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, "his staunch opposition to and his condemnation of what had happened at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and stressed that he opposed any act of violence on the part of any side, especially in places of worship."
Abbas In 2014 Video Posted On Fatah Facebook Page Following Attack: "We Should All Be Murabitun [Front-Line Fighters] At Al-Aqsa"
The next day, a video clip of a 2014 speech by 'Abbas was posted on the Facebook page of the Fatah movement, which is headed by 'Abbas. In the speech, he says: "It is not enough for us to say that there are murabitun [fighters stationed on the front line]. We should all be murabitun at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is not enough for us to say: 'The settlers have come.' They have come, and they must not enter the Haram [Al-Aqsa] compound. Using any possible means, we must prevent them from entering the Haram. This is our Haram compound, this is our Al-Aqsa, and this is our Church [of the Holy Sepulcher], and they have no right to enter them. They have no right to defile them. We must prevent them [from doing so]. We should stand bare-chested facing them, in order to defend our holy places." An image of Al-Aqsa mosque appears in the video, encircled in red and titled "Jerusalem is Arab."
To view the video on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
The Facebook post was titled "This Is The Call Of Brother President Abu Mazen ['Abbas]...", and the text accompanying it read: "We should defend our holy places bare-chested and by any possible means. It is not enough to say that there are settlers at Al-Aqsa. We should drive them out and prevent them from defiling Al-Aqsa by any means."
Cleric Imad Hamatu On Official Palestinian Authority TV Channel: True Jihad Is Ribat In The Al-Aqsa Mosque
Following the attack, Palestinian cleric Sheikh Imad Hamatu said that "such blows [i.e. the closure of Al-Aqsa] awaken the slumbering body, and awaken the nation, which is drowning in its desires and doubts." He added that the "true jihad" is "ribat [being stationed on the front line] in the Al-Aqsa Mosque." His statements aired on the official Palestinian Authority TV channel. He said: "Our nation did not come from across the sea. They are the ones who have come from here and from there. 'We divided them throughout the Earth into nations.' And then they came here to abolish history, to abolish geography, and to abolish our minds. As I always say, the Palestinian cause is the cause of the Arabs and the Muslims. There will never be peace, and there will never be a Palestinian state or a Palestinian foreign ministry. Jerusalem is the prize that Allah will award the [Islamic] nation on the day the entire nation reconciles with Allah. Therefore, such blows awaken the slumbering body, awaken the nation, which is drowning in its desires and doubts, and overshadow the great banners calling for jihad for the sake of Allah, but diverting the compass from the true jihad of ribat in the Al-Aqsa Mosque."
To view the video on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
Fatah Central Committee Member 'Abbas Zaki: In Light Of The Absence Of Political Hope, "Nobody Can Stop People Who Want To Die"
As noted, except for 'Abbas's statements to Netanyahu, there was no other condemnation of the attack from other PA officials. Although they were careful not to express support for the attack, they showed understanding for the attackers' motives, which, they said, were because of Israel.
Fatah Central Committee member 'Abbas Zaki said that the attack indicated an escalation in the situation, which, he said, was heading toward a "big explosion." "If the political process fails, nobody can stop people who want to die," said Zaki, speaking on Mayadeen TV on the day of the attack. Pointing to U.S. President Trump's visit to the Western Wall, known to Muslims as Al-Buraq Wall, where he "performed the rituals performed by Jews," he said: "This is very dangerous."
To view the video on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
Zaki said: "This operation came from the depth of the 1948 lands, from Umm Al-Fahm. It came from people who have Israeli ID cards, and who are the most familiar with the changes within Israel.
"These young men, instead of going from Umm Al-Fahm to Jerusalem, could have killed 20 Israelis there, but the fact that they chose Friday for their souls to ascend [to Heaven] from the place of the Prophet's ascension points to dangerous things. If there is a vacuum in the national activity and the political process fails, nobody can stop people who want to die.
"I believe that the situation is heading toward a big explosion. You cannot know exactly how this explosion will take place. It does not matter whether we condemn or support [the attack]. The operation was carried out by people from within the '48 borders, with [Israeli] ID cards.
"The situation will escalate for a reason. In the past, people thought that there was a chance for peace, but for the first time, an American president comes along, and performs Jewish rituals at the Al-Buraq Wall - which he calls "the Wailing Wall." Even though he was not accompanied by anyone, he put on a yarmulke and performed the rituals performed by Jews. This is very dangerous."
Religious Affairs Advisor To 'Abbas: The Occupation Is The Reason For The Attack
Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Religious Affairs Advisor to 'Abbas, also said that Israel was responsible for the attack and warned of a religious war. In a PA TV interview, he said: "The first reason for the attack is the existence of the occupation, which is a cancer gnawing at stability, security, and peace. Netanyahu must stop it, as this is the only way to stop all the incidents of violence and tension. The occupation preceded the resistance, and the Palestinian people must not believe Netanyahu's lies. The continuation of the occupation and its escalation by Israel are threatening to transform the conflict into a religious one. A religious war will not stop at the borders of Palestine and the region; it will reach the entire world. Out of Jerusalem may come either danger or peace, and it is up to the Israelis to choose between them."
Abu Alaa, Head Of PLO Jerusalem Affairs Department: The Conflict May Become A Religious War; Al-Aqsa Must Be Protected In All Legitimate Ways
In their statements, most top PA officials focused on Israel's response to the attack, i.e. the two-day closure of the Al-Aqsa compound, rather than on the attack itself, and called for defending Al-Aqsa. Ahmad Qurei, aka Abu Alaa, head of the PLO Jerusalem Affairs department, wrote in the Al-Quds daily under the headline "Warning, Anything But Al-Aqsa":
"The closure of the Old City and prevention of prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, as well as the curfew, the transformation of the holy city into an army camp, and other steps taken by the occupation – the sum total of all these measures looks very much like scenes reminiscent of a re-conquest of Jerusalem, and a prelude to a large and dangerous measure at the level of changing the status quo regarding the Muslims' first direction of prayer [i.e. the Al-Aqsa compound], which would present millions of Arabs and their brethren in the Muslim world with an outrageous fact that could potentially provoke the most profound rage from within this nation, and lead to all the hatred that exists in its collective consciousness, which is likely to find expression in various potential reactions.
"This time, Israel is playing with a fire that is capable of consuming everything around it, in a barrel of explosives whose sparks may fly beyond Palestine itself. This compels us to say: 'Oh Israel, beware of underestimating this erupting wave of emotions which has the potential to transform the current political conflict into a religious war that will leave nothing behind.'
"At the same time, we must be careful not to ignore any action of the occupation against the Al-Aqsa mosque and to assume that it is a temporary one... and [realize] that this blatant provocation is an opportunity for encouraging urgent self-examination, as part of which the Palestinians will cast aside the small disagreements among them, rise above their petty squabbles, and quickly unite around a common crucial goal – defending Al-Aqsa in all possible and legitimate ways. For this is a clear moment of truth."
Palestinian Writers Criticize July 14 'Al-Aqsa Operation': It Does Not Serve The Palestinian Interest; Armed Resistance Is Against PLO Policy
The Palestinian press published many articles about the attack and Israel's subsequent closure of the compound. Most of the writers were extremely critical of Israel's actions at the compound, stating that the Israeli government was using the attack as a pretext to implement an already existing plan to take over the compound and establish a new status quo there. Some of them even expressed understanding for the operation, referring to it as "a cry of despair of Muslim citizens who cannot bear Israel's actions in Jerusalem."
On the other hand, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published several articles harshly criticizing the attack. They stated that it had been carried out by mercenaries who serve foreign interests, and that its timing, during the Middle East visit by U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, was likely to shift U.S. policy against the Palestinians. One of the writers also claimed that armed resistance only damages the Palestinian struggle, and contradicts PLO policy.
Palestinian Writer: It Is The Palestinians Who Lost Out The Most From This Operation; The Perpetrators Are Mercenaries Serving Regional Agendas
Palestinian columnist Bassem Barhoum wrote in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "No one disputes the fact that the Israeli occupation is the mother of all the problems and the root of the violence and terrorism. Why is this occupation, its troops, its police, and its intelligence present at Al-Aqsa and in its environs? Why are they in Jerusalem and on occupied Palestinian land at all?... "Do not let this fact... dazzle us or prevent us from wondering about the motives behind this operation, which was carried out early Friday morning [July 14, 2017] at the Al-Aqsa compound – its timing, who is behind it, and the choice of Al-Aqsa [as the site], not somewhere else in Jerusalem – even though the occupation soldiers, police, and settlers are swarming in [Jerusalem's] lanes and paths.
"Likewise, do not let the word 'resistance' prevent us from thinking about the disaster that this operation can wreak upon Al-Aqsa and on us, particularly when we know of the Israeli-Zionist plan to harm Al-Aqsa based on the pretext of the false claim that it is the Temple Mount. We must not, therefore, refrain from or fear criticizing the term 'resistance' when it serves the interest of the enemy, or any element in the region that is not the Palestinians, because it is their cause and their land, because this is resistance that is doubtful, that serves the interests of agendas that are not national, and that directly harms the interests of our Palestinian people.
"First of all, we should wonder about the timing of this operation. Why was it carried out now? This question concerns both its general timing and the choice of [carrying it out] early on a Friday morning – in order to give the occupation authorities a pretext to close Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem to the worshippers among our people. There is no way out of creating a link between this question about the timing in its general context, and the reasoning of the occupation state that it now has a golden opportunity to complete its plan to Judaize Jerusalem, and Al-Aqsa mosque in particular, in the shadow of the increasing crises in the Arab nation and the deplorable schism [in its ranks].
"For the completion of [this Israeli plan] and the division of Al-Aqsa mosque... there was a need, from the Israeli point of view, for a spark, and that is what [the Israelis] got with this operation. We must examine and analyze this operation, particularly since Palestinian history is rife with such operations carried out in the guise of resistance to the occupation, when in actuality they were aimed at serving it.
"Additionally, with regard to the timing, the operation was carried out when the American envoy [Jason Greenblatt] was visiting the region, and this operation gave him and the American administration justification to ratchet up the pressure on the Palestinian side and set out a plan and solutions that can serve Israel's aims without any fear, and it will attempt to force these on the Palestinian people and its leadership.
"The most important question in this context is, who really gains from this operation? Certainly our Palestinian people and the Palestinian problem are the biggest losers, and after them come the Arab and Islamic nations. We know and remember, for example, in which ways and with what methods the Zionists and their terror organizations justified their policy of ethnic cleansing against our Palestinian people in 1948, which caused the Nakba, and the emigration of some million Palestinians from their lands, leaving behind their assets, as well as the eradication of Palestine and its people from the map. And we know how, later, Israel used its wars as pretexts for the purposes of expansion and spreading, at the expense of the Palestinians and the Arabs. In this context, the Abu Nidal organization's assassination [attempt against] the Israeli ambassador to London [Shlomo Argov] on the eve of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 is clear to all; it served as a pretext for the Begin-Sharon government to go to war.
"We must, before it is too late, differentiate between legitimate resistance to the occupation connected to the national Palestinian goals and interests, and the resistance of the mercenaries serving regional agendas aimed solely at using the Palestinian problem and the blood of our Palestinian people to obtain compromises that will favor them. The Al-Aqsa operation is another warning to our national consciousness, calling upon us to differentiate between what serves our interests and what serves those of our enemies or regional elements."
Bassam Barhoum (Source: Maanews.net, July 19, 2017)
Palestinian Columnist: Armed Resistance Is Pointless
In his column in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Muwaffaq Matar stresses that he opposes operations like the Al-Aqsa attack and explains that it is peaceful popular resistance, peace negotiations, and diplomatic activity that will bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state, while armed resistance will bring the opposite result. He wrote: "[No] fighter can deny the magnitude of the nationalism of young Palestinians. But without a framework and organization, armed operations will bring just the opposite [of the desired results] and this will not favor the [Palestinian] public or issue. And all the more so, when these operations occur simultaneously with the Judaization plans of the Israeli occupation regime; at their foundation, they constitute demographic-geographic changes not only to the reality of the [Arab] residents of Jerusalem, but in the future will also be directed against our people within the 1948 borders.
"We must pay attention to, and be aware of the attempt by groups known as terror [organizations] to take advantage of operations like these in order to establish their existence and to achieve political aims that are good for them but destructive to the interests of the Palestinian people...
"I am among those who believe in the path of peaceful popular resistance and peace negotiations. I am among those who see no point to armed operations, neither in today's circumstances nor in the future, nor in any future situation. I see armed operations as individual initiatives and nothing more, carried out by young fervent Palestinians. I agree with the logic that the PLO, the only legitimate representative [of the Palestinians] is the one to decide on the ways and means of the struggle, and how to include them in the framework of its political plan. It is our firm supposition that the PLO chose diplomatic and political activity in the international forums in order to create a new legal standing for Palestine [that will be anchored] in international law, and to establish the foundations of a state on the map of the world. From here, we must examine the ramifications of every armed operation, and must see whether it is compatible with this plan or contradicts it."
Palestinian Columnist: Beware Of Mercenary Operations That Serve The Enemy
Yahyah Rabah wrote in his July 17, 2017 column in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "What was the aim of the operation at Al-Aqsa compound last Friday morning [July 14, 2017]? What were its motives? Can we rule out the possibility that the most extremist movements and organizations in Israel might be capable of this?
"It may be that a little patience and awareness will show us the answer, although it is known that Fatah, that launched the modern Palestinian revolution in January 1967 [sic, January 1965], warned from the very first about the danger of hired guns, that is, guns carried by people or organizations who hide behind revolutionary names, wearing the uniform of a fighter who risks his life and wraps a black-and-white dotted kaffiyeh around his neck, but who are essentially not Palestinians, nor fighters putting their lives at risk, because they follow the path of the enemy, whatever his name, his color, or his intention to harm us. In the past, we suffered much from the phenomenon of hired guns, but it is our path that was victorious, while theirs dealt them destructive defeats."
Hamas, Islamic Movement In Israel Praise The Attack
Hamas and the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel were quick to praise the attackers, describing the operation as heroic and legitimate. Hamas members also criticized 'Abbas for his condemnation of the attack.
Several hours after the attack, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri tweeted that the attack was "a natural reaction to the Israeli terror" that affirms that the intifada will continue.
Abu Zuhri's tweet. @DSZuhri, July 14, 2017.
A few days later, Isma'il Haniyeh, head of Hamas's political bureau, praised the "heroic martyrs of the Al-Aqsa attack from the Jabarin family [i.e. the attackers]," and promised that "members of Hamas know what their way is to help Al-Aqsa."
Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar praised the attackers, stressing that Umm Al-Fahm, the city in the Triangle area in northern Israel where the attackers were from, is part of "the Palestinian homeland" and adding: "Is not Umm Al-Fahm, whose heroes reached the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with their weapons, part of the homeland? The city of Umm Al-Fahm is the heart of the homeland since its sons sacrificed their blood for the liberation of the homeland."
Yahya Al-Abadsa, member of the Hamas legislative council, said: "This is a legitimate action since it was carried out in an occupied area... Al-Aqsa mosque is worthy of sacrifice." Al-Abdsa used the opportunity to strongly criticize Abu Mazen, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, saying that his condemnation of the attack was "a crime against the resistance of the Palestinian people" and calling for his resignation.
The attack was also marked at the Hamas "To Jerusalem We March" summer camp in northern Gaza; there, children held a "March Of Joy For The Heroic Operation In Jerusalem."
Children's march at Gaza Hamas summer camp. The banner reads: "March Of Joy For The Heroic Operation in Jerusalem" (Facebook.com gazacampnorth2017), July 17, 2017.
Children at Gaza Hamas summer camp holding signs reading: "Jerusalem We Are Coming" (Facebook.com gazacampnorth2017), July 17, 2017.
Children at Gaza Hamas summer camp carrying posters with photos of the Al-Aqsa attackers (Facebook.com gazacampnorth2017), July 17, 2017.
Also at the Gaza Hamas summer camp, there was a model of Al-Aqsa mosque with a sign reading "Al-Aqsa Mosque has been closed" and a poster of the three attackers, captioned "Giants of Palestine, the Triangle of Heroism and Martyrdom."
Facebook.com/gazacamps, July 17, 2017
Sheikh Raed Salah, Leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Prays for "Martyrs" Who Carried Out Al-Aqsa Attack
In a Friday sermon in Umm Al-Fahm the day of the attack, Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and former mayor of the city, prayed that Allah accept the perpetrators – "the sons of Umm Al-Fahm" – in Paradise and "unite them with the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the pure."
To view the video on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
He said: "The Israeli occupation is responsible for all the blood that is spilled at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, without exception. The Israeli occupation is responsible for all the blood spilled at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is responsible for the blood of our martyrs from Umm Al-Fahm, which was shed this morning – Muhammad, Muhammad, and Muhammad.
"From this pulpit, I would like to stress this position: [The occupation] is responsible for all the injustice we suffer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Therefore, my brothers, I ask that Allah accept all the martyrs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that He unite them [in Paradise] with the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the pure. I ask that Allah accept all the female martyrs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that He unite them [in Paradise] with the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the pure. I ask that Allah accept those who were martyred this morning, the sons of Umm Al-Fahm – Muhammad, Muhammad, and Muhammad, and that He unite them [in Paradise] with the prophets, the righteous, the martyrs, and the pure."
 Wafa.ps, July 14, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), July 15, 2017.
 Wafa.ps, July 14, 2017.
 Palestinian TV, youtube.com/watch?v=TUT6Tr35Uzs, July 14, 2017.
 Alquds.com, July 16, 2017.
 See, for example, article by Taltal 'Awkal, Palestinian Authority, July 17, 2017.
 See, for example, article by Ikram 'Atta Allah, Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), July 16, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), July 14, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), July 16, 2017.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), July 15, 2017.
 @DSZuhri, July 14, 2017.
 Hamas.ps/ar/post/7645, July 17, 2017.
 Paltimes.ps, July 16, 2017.
 Amad.ps, July 15, 2017.