Palestinian president visits Jenin refugee camp, in first such visit since 2005

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp Wednesday in the wake of a devastating Israeli offensive last week, marking his first visit to the camp since 2005.

The visit came at a time of seething discontentment among Palestinians in the West Bank for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the autonomous government which administers parts of the West Bank but whose forces have largely lost control over several militant strongholds in the region — including Jenin.

Abbas’s leadership has come under criticism over a lack of security coordination, rampant corruption and the lack of any progress toward independence.

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The Palestinian leader’s visit to the Jenin refugee camp came a week after Israel launched a massive two-day military operation there, the largest in the West Bank in nearly two decades, that killed at least 12 Palestinians, forced thousands to flee their homes and left large swaths of the camp in ruins.

An Israeli soldier was also killed in the operation, which the Israeli army said was necessary to crack down on Palestinian militant groups following a spate of recent attacks.

The Palestinian Authority has long drawn resentment for its security cooperation with Israel, which allows its security forces to crack down on rival militant groups such as Hamas, but the Jenin raid further degraded its reputation among many Palestinians.
Abbas’s visit came after a statement by Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu’s office that his government would take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, but gave no specifics about what steps it would take.

Since taking office in December, several ultranationalist ministers in Netanyahu’s government have called for the Palestinian Authority to be disbanded.

Netanyahu heads one of the most hard-line governments in Israel’s history, made up of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox factions along with his ruling Likud party.

Over the last year, Israel has conducted stepped-up raids into Palestinian areas in response to deadly Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis over the past year.

More than 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the year, while at least 26 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

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