Palestinian president visits West Bank refugee camp

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Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Saturday toured the Jalazone camp in the occupied West Bank, official media announced, in a rare visit to a refugee camp.

He was flanked by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary general Saeb Erekat, official news agency WAFA said.

Abbas reportedly met with local residents and officials, and posted several pictures.

His office said it was his first visit to a refugee camp in several years.

Analysts say that Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) is unpopular in several camps, where other Palestinian factions often have significant influence, due to his administration’s perceived inability to improve residents’ lives.

His tour follows a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the nearby Beit El settlement on Thursday after the murder of an off duty Israeli soldier close to the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz.

Netanyahu again talked about the possibility of officially annexing settlements, a policy that critics say would effectively kill remaining hopes for a two-state solution.

Mahmoud Mubarak, head of the popular committee in Jalazone camp, told AFP the visit was a “first political response to the Netanyahu visit to Beit El two days ago.”

“The visit was greatly welcomed by the camp’s residents,” he added.

The news agency WAFA said Abbas spoke to residents and said the Palestinian people would remain steadfast in opposing Israel’s occupation.

The refugee camps pre-date the establishment of the PA in 1994 and have high levels of local autonomy.

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