The top diplomat of the United States, Antony Blinken, has put pressure on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to “regain control” of Jenin and Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to a report, putting responsibility for the escalating violence in the territory on the Palestinians, despite continued Israeli raids which have killed at least 200 people in the last year.
The US plan would see the PA clamp down on newly emergent Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank, sources told the Axios news website.
According to the report, published on Wednesday, Palestinians expressed reservations over the lack of emphasis in the plan on Israel de-escalating and decreasing its raids in the West Bank.
The report came on the back of a Middle East tour by Blinken earlier this week, where he first met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Both visits took place amid heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians last Thursday in the Jenin refugee camp during a military raid. Another man later died from his wounds on Saturday.
The confrontation led to several hours of intense fighting in which an elderly woman also lost her life.
A day later, an attacker shot dead seven people near a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.
Citing Israeli and US sources, the Axios report said Blinken had urged the PA president “to accept and implement a security plan” that was drafted by US security coordinator Michael Fenzel.
The plan, the sources said, includes the PA’s security forces regaining control of the northern part of the West Bank, especially Nablus and Jenin. The officials also said a special Palestinian force would receive training to then be deployed in the area to counter armed groups’ resistance.
The two cities have emerged as a hub for armed groups composed of young Palestinians who have grown frustrated by the occupation and the increasingly unpopular PA.
Many of these groups have affiliations with traditional Palestinian factions – such as Fatah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – but are not operating under their direct control.
The Israeli military says its raids have been in part a crackdown on these new armed groups, although raids have long been a regular occurrence in the West Bank.
In 2022, more than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, were killed across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the deadliest year since 2006, according to the United Nations.
At least a further 35 have been killed in January alone, including five children.
Fenzel’s plan was presented to the Israeli government and to the PA several weeks ago, read the report, adding that while it had received the support of the Israeli government, there were “many reservations” from Palestinian authorities.
Such grievances, the sources said, stemmed from a lack of references over the need to decrease Israeli forces’ incursions into Palestinian territories and to build up public support for such an operation.
The Palestinian officials also told the US officials that they “don’t have the legitimacy to operate during the day when the Israeli military conducts raids that lead to Palestinian deaths at night”, read the report.
“I also heard constructive ideas for practical steps that each side can take to lower the temperature, to foster greater cooperation, to bolster people’s security,” Blinken said, during a news conference after his tour, without elaborating further. “And so I’ve asked senior members of my team to stay on in the region and continue discussions on how these steps might actually be advanced,” he added.