Extremist Israeli settlers have hung posters calling for the assassination of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas across the occupied West Bank.
The posters – showing Abbas' face framed within a gun target sign and the words "kill the financier of terror" written in Hebrew – appeared yesterday near the Huwara intersection of Route 60, just south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Posters also appeared in other locations, including inside illegal Israeli settlements, at bus stops and along other West Bank roads, with some reading: "The time has come to say: a murder funder = a murderer".
According to local news agency Ma'an, "Locals reported that the Israeli army, deployed in the area, did not remove the posters".
The campaign is believed by the Times of Israel to have been carried out by Derech Chaim, a group of extremist Israeli settlers that calls for "public policy in accordance with religious Jewish law". Haaretz reported in 2015 that the group "wants to replace Israeli democracy with a state based on Jewish law headed by a king".
The organisation has a history of incitement, being headed by right-wing rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh who is known for "his extreme views, such as justifying the killings carried out by Baruch Goldstein in the [Ibrahimi Mosque] in Hebron in 1994". In 2003, Ginsburgh published a book "in which he wrote that Arabs have no right to live in Israel, and blamed the Israeli left for the murder of Jews". He was indicted for incitement as a result, but avoided charge by agreeing not to do so in the future.
The incident has sparked anger among Palestinian authorities. Spokesperson for the Palestinian Presidency, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, said that such incitement against Abbas' life "crosses all red lines", warning Israel against any actions that might harm the president. Meanwhile the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned the campaign, stressing that "while this campaign specifically targets President Abbas, it is symptomatic of the widespread [Israeli] incitement campaign against the Palestinian people in general".
The statement added: "Settler terrorism and incitement is one of Israel's means of expansion in order to foist its settler colonial regime in the State of Palestine. Israel, the occupying power, financially, politically, and legally supports settler terrorist groups such as 'price tag' and 'hilltop youth'. The numerous cases of settlers' crimes committed, and the pattern confirmed thereby, demonstrate a clear policy of impunity and violations of international laws."
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) joined other authorities in condemning the incident, with member of the PLO Executive Committee Hanan Ashrawi saying: "The Israeli government is directly responsible for these open calls for the President's assassination and any escalation of hate crimes and settler terrorism against Palestinian citizens and their property."
Ashrawi added: "This right-wing extremist [Israeli] government has lent its tacit support and protection to armed settler militias who have terrorised Palestinian civilians and carried out heinous assaults, including fatal arson attacks against defenseless families," referring to the 2015 murder of the Dawabsheh family by extremist settler Amiram Ben-Uliel.
Israel has yet to issue a statement about the incident.
The calls for Abbas' assassination come amid a week of escalated Israeli violence in the occupied West Bank. More than 40 armoured Israeli military vehicles yesterday stormed Ramallah and Al-Bireh, raiding a number of shops around the headquarters of the Palestinian financial ministry and confiscating CCTV footage from the area. Five Palestinians were wounded during the attack.
On Monday, Israeli forces raided the official Palestinian news agency Wafa in Ramallah, with Israeli troops entering the server room and going through recordings. "[Israeli forces] withdrew from the agency's office after they took copies of the security camera footage," Wafa said on its website.