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Palestinians fear Netanyahu’s comeback in Israel may lead to more violence

The prospect of
Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power at the head of one of the
most right-wing coalitions in Israeli history has prompted
concern among Palestinians who said they feared it was a prelude
to further escalation of conflict with Israel.

Netanyahu’s comeback in Tuesday’s election is set against
the backdrop of the deadliest spell of violence in years between
Israel and the Palestinians, whose hopes of statehood appear as
distant as ever with Middle East peacemaking in the doldrums.

More than 100 Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West
Bank have been killed by Israeli forces this year while a string
of fatal street attacks by Palestinians has killed 20 people in
Israel and Israeli settlements.

Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank and Gaza enclave said
the ultra-nationalist complexion of Netanyahu’s likely alliance,
including the firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir, who once advocated
expelling Palestinians, prompted concern over further tension.

“No doubt the result of such a coalition will increase the
hostile attitude towards the Palestinian people and make
occupation measures more extreme,” Bassam Salhe, a member of the
Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization,
told Reuters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hamas, which has fought
several wars with Israel over the last decade, predicted the
results meant more potential violence.

“It is clear that the Israelis are leaning towards more
extremism, which also means aggression against our people would
increase,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Reuters.

“Netanyahu-led governments that launched several wars
against our Palestinian people, and the presence of the most
extreme figures in a coalition means that we are going to face
more of the Zionist terrorism,” Qassem told Reuters.

READ MORE:
Exit polls show Netanyahu’s bloc ahead in Israel elections

Netanyahu opposes Palestinian statehood

A spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited autonomy over Palestinian towns and cities in the occupied West Bank, declined to comment on the preliminary election results, saying they would await the final outcome.

While negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel have been at a standstill, the sides have had contacts this year, with Abbas meeting Defence Minister Benny Gantz to calm tensions and coordinate security measures.

In September, Abbas welcomed Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s call for a two-state solution as a “positive development”. 

Netanyahu, by contrast, has long opposed a Palestinian state.

In the latest West Bank violence, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian man on Wednesday after a suspected car-ramming attack at a checkpoint that left a soldier severely injured, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

Violence also escalated in August in Gaza. At least 49 people including 17 children were killed in 56 hours of fighting that started with what Israel described as preemptive air strikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which fired hundreds of missiles into Israel during the flare-up.

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