Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz before Biden visit
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz held a rare meeting in the occupied West Bank in an effort to "calm tensions and coordinate security measures" days before US President Joe Biden's first visit to the region.
Gantz said on Twitter that Thursday's meeting in Ramallah "was conducted in positive terms" and that the two discussed "civilian and security challenges" in the region.
"We agreed to maintain close security coordination and to avoid actions that may cause instability," Gantz said.
Abbas "stressed the importance of creating a political horizon, respecting signed agreements and stopping actions and measures that lead to the deterioration of the situation," Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, said in a tweet.
Abbas also stressed the importance of having a "calm atmosphere before President Biden's visit, which we welcome".
The President of the State of #Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, received, this Thursday evening, at the presidential HQ in Ramallah, the #Israeli Minister Benny Gantz.— حسين الشيخ Hussein Al Sheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) July 7, 2022
For his part, Minister Gantz extended his congratulations to the president and the Palestinians on Eid al-Adha. https://t.co/ckrsoBpwPN
It was the third known meeting between Abbas and Gantz since August last year, and the first since Yair Lapid took over as caretaker prime minister in Israel last week ahead of elections on 1 November.
Tensions have escalated following the May 11 Israeli killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
Abu Akleh was shot by an Israeli soldier, according to several eye witness accounts and independent investigations, which the Palestinian Authority has labelled a war crime.
Israel denies this, accusing Palestinian militants of shooting her, but later backtracked and promised an investigation. Earlier this week, the US State Department said on Monday that Abu Akleh was likely killed by gunfire from Israeli positions but says it was probably "unintentional".
The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967 following an illegal invasion. US-brokered talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in Israeli-occupied territory collapsed in 2014 and show no sign of revival.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad condemned Thursday's meeting in a statement.
"Insisting on communication and security meetings serves the interests and plans of the enemy (Israel) and gives it a free hand to practice the aggression our people are subjected to every day," it said.