The 87-year-old arrived by helicopter from the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) headquarters in Ramallah and visited the Jenin refugee camp and the cemetery where many Palestinians killed by Israeli forces are buried.
Three senior PA officials were heckled by crowds at the same cemetery last week when they attended the funerals for the 12 Palestinians killed in Israel’s large-scale offensive in early July.
Many Palestinians feel let down by the PA for its inaction during the raid, which over two days damaged or destroyed more than 80 percent of homes in the camp and displaced some 4,000 people.
According to local reports, almost 1,000 Palestinian armed guards were deployed in Jenin to secure Abbas’ visit.
Speaking to crowds in Jenin, Abbas called the refugee camp there an “icon of struggle and steadfastness” and vowed to rebuild the camp, left in ruins by the Israeli raid.
He also issued a stern warning to those who he said want to disrupt Palestinian unity.
“We came to say that we are one authority, one state, one law… and we will cut off the hand that tampers with the unity and security of our people,” he said.
The brief visit lasted nearly two hours before Abbas returned by helicopter to Ramallah.
Abbas’ security bubble stands in stark contrast to his predecessor Yasser Arafat, who prior to his death in 2004 would regularly travel among Palestinian cities, drawing huge crowds.
Abbas on the other hand rarely travels outside of Ramallah, the seat of the PA.
The last time he toured Palestinian cities, including Jenin, Nablus and Hebron, was in 2012.
Under Abbas, the PA has become distant from the lives of ordinary Palestinians and seemingly unable to provide basic services or find a solution to the regular Israeli raids throughout the occupied West Bank.
Israeli attacks have particularly spiked in the last two years, with Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank reaching record levels not seen since the Second Intifada, before Abbas became president.
The PA, established in 1994 following the Oslo Accords, holds devolved authority over parts of the occupied West Bank and was supposed to mark the first tentative step towards Palestinian sovereignty and negotiations over the creation of an independent state.
In the years since its creation, however, it has become widely unpopular over its corruption, authoritarianism and security cooperation with Israel. Abbas has also long outstayed his mandate as president.
The PA’s collapse would see governance of the occupied territory fully returned to the Israeli state, as was the case between 1967, when Israel conquered the territory, and 1993.