Palestinian Authority President Abbas fires occupied West Bank governors

Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to relieve 12 governors of their posts in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip took many by surprise.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has fired most of the governors in the occupied West Bank, responding to long-standing demands for a political shake-up amid growing frustration.

Abbas issued a decree on Thursday dismissing the governors of eight provinces under Palestinian administration in the occupied territory. The upheaval included the northern cities of Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem, the focus of a recent surge in Palestinian armed resistance that has undermined the PA’s leadership. The governors of Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Tubas and Jericho were also removed.

Abbas’s decree also fired four governors in the besieged Gaza Strip, whose role has remained symbolic since the 2007 Hamas takeover of the enclave.

Only three areas – including Ramallah, the seat of the internationally recognised PA – retained their governors. The president’s office said that he would form a committee to suggest replacements.

A number of the sacked governors said they found out about their dismissal from local media.

“I was not previously informed of the referral for retirement, and I learned about the decision from the media,” Akram Rajoub, the previous governor of Jenin told Quds News Network.

Others, like the former governor of Jericho Jihad Abu al-Asal, said while he and his colleagues had expected an overhaul for years given growing demands for change, Thursday’s decree still took them by surprise.

“No one spoke to us,” he said. “We do not know what the reasons are, and we were surprised to learn about it from the media.”

Yet none expressed dissent with the decision of the president, with al-Asal saying: “Even if we don’t understand all the reasons for it, we will comply.”

‘It will take much more’

Although the decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the ground, experts said it signals Abbas’s recognition of the PA’s deepening unpopularity and his desire to show that he is heeding calls for change.“It gives the authority a new face, which is important particularly as the governors are in charge of all security matters,” said political analyst Jehad Harb. “But it won’t change anything really. [Abbas] is trying to rebuild some public trust, but it will take much more.”

The move comes as the secular nationalist Fatah party, which runs the PA, grapples with mounting crises – internal and otherwise.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has imposed numerous sanctions on the PA, expanded settlements on Palestinian lands, and overseen Israeli military raids into occupied West Bank cities that Palestinian officials say weaken their control.

Powerful ministers in Netanyahu’s government have openly called for the collapse of the PA and the annexation of the occupied West Bank. These policies have been accompanied by a surge in vigilante settler violence against Palestinians.

On Friday, yet another Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp resulted in the killing of a 23-year-old man.

Mahmoud Jarad was shot in the chest as Israeli soldiers stormed the Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank.At least 220 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces since the beginning of 2023, according to Palestinian officials, in what the United Nations said was the deadliest year since it began recording fatalities at the end of the Second Intifada.  At least 27 Israelis have been killed in separate attacks during the same period.