GENEVA: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday urged the international community to protect the two-state solution, in a message aimed at Israel and the new US administration of President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials say that Israeli airstrikes have struck militant sites in the Gaza Strip wounding at least four people. Monday’s airstrikes come after a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel, landing in an empty field. There were no reports of injuries on either side.
At a White House meeting earlier this month, both Trump and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared to back away from the internationally supported idea of the establishment of an independent Palestine alongside Israel.
In an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Abbas called on states that believe in two states “to come to the defense of that solution” and recognize the state of Palestine.
“This solution must be protected from any attempt to withdraw from it or simply disregard it,” he said.
The international community, including the US, has long supported the idea of a two-state solution as the best way to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In January, dozens of countries reiterated their support for this goal at an international conference in France, days before Trump took office.
But at a joint press conference with Trump on Feb. 15, Netanyahu made no mention of the two-state solution. Instead, he talked of searching for “new ways” forward, including a regional approach involving other Arab countries.
Trump, meanwhile, said he could favor any agreement between the parties, including a single Israeli-Palestinian state, a solution that neither side favors. He also referred to a “much bigger deal” involving “many countries.”
Abbas said he is ready to work in a “positive spirit” with Trump, but rejected the idea of an interim agreement or single state.
“We should no longer be speaking of integrating Palestine within a larger regional framework and that is precisely what the government of Israel is attempting to do by withdrawing from progress previously achieved,” he said.
He also denounced Israel’s settlement activity on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians and Israel’s passage this month of a law meant to retroactively legalize thousands of West Bank settlement homes built unlawfully on private Palestinian land.
He said the law “legitimizes the theft of occupied Palestinian lands.”
Abbas also cautioned against the transfer of any embassy to Jerusalem, a scenario raised by Trump.
Israel carried out a series of airstrikes on militant sites across the Gaza Strip on Monday, wounding at least four people, officials said, following a rocket attack on southern Israel that caused no casualties.
Explosions could be heard and smoke rose into the air in the southern town of Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border.
“The Israeli entity bears full responsibility for the continuation of this dangerous escalation against Gaza. Continuing the targeting of the resistance sites and other properties and structures to deliberately blow up the situation is unacceptable,” said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group.
The Israeli military said it had targeted five Hamas positions throughout Gaza in response to the earlier rocket strike.
The Israeli military “holds Hamas accountable for any attacks from the Gaza Strip that jeopardize the safety of Israelis and breach Israel’s sovereignty,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.
Hamas security forces blocked journalists from approaching one of the targets in Rafah, suggesting a sensitive installation had been hit. The local Health Ministry said four people were slightly or moderately wounded.
Local media said training bases used by the ruling Hamas militant group, as well as the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group, were also struck in central and northern Gaza.
Earlier Monday, a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel, landing in an empty field. There were no reports of injuries.
Since a 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in the summer of 2014, a cease-fire has largely held. But militants in Gaza occasionally fire rockets at Israel’s south.
Israel typically responds to any rocket fire from Gaza. Although most rocket fire since the war has come from smaller rivals of Hamas, Israel holds the militant group, which has controlled Gaza for a decade, responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility in Gaza for the rocket. A Jihadist group that supports the Daesh has taken responsibility for similar attacks in the past.