RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Marking 40 years of Israeli occupation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday that his people are on the verge of civil war. He said the infighting is perhaps worse than living under Israeli military rule.
Israel’s capture of the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War was a « black day » for the Palestinians, who paid a heavy price for defeat, Abbas said in a televised speech marking the start of the Six-Day War on June 5, 1967.
Abbas focused on the bloody factional fighting between his Fatah movement and the Islamic militant Hamas. The two parties have been governing in an uneasy coalition since March, but another round of gun battles erupted in May, killing dozens of Palestinians in Gaza.
« Regarding our internal situation, what concerns us all is the chaos, and more specifically, being on the verge of civil war, » Abbas said.
He said he has spent hundreds of negotiating hours trying to halt the bloodshed, « realizing that what is equal to the danger of occupation, or even more, is the danger of infighting. »
Meanwhile, about 200 Israeli demonstrators gathered Tuesday in Hebron to mark the 40th anniversary of the war’s outbreak, urging the government to remove all Jewish settlers from the biblical city.
Demonstrators faced off against 30 counter-protesters nearby, who carried signs calling them « traitors. » Local Palestinians peered out from the windows at the protesters, while dozens of soldiers – including troops on a nearby rooftop – stood guard.
« I’m here to protest the occupation in one of the most violent places in the territories. I want my name down as one of the people who are opposed, » said Doron Narkiss, 52, a teacher from Tel Aviv.
David Wilder, a spokesman for the Hebron settlers, called the protest « incitement. »