Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FADI AROURI/POOL

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday made his first public appearance since weekend rumours that he was in a Jordanian hospital for treatment.

In a televised speech from his office in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Abbas said in response to Israeli concerns, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will not collapse.

"The (Palestinian) Authority is one of our achievements and we are not going to give it up," Abbas said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told his security cabinet on Monday that although Israel would do all it could to prevent the collapse of the PA, it should prepare for that scenario.

Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Saturday denied as "distorted and false" rumours that the 80-year-old president had been hospitalized in Jordan with a serious ailment.

"They (Israel) should not dream of its collapse," Abbas said. "We may be under siege or blockaded and soldiers can reach all places, but we are not going to leave this place and we will not give up or despair."

"We are here to stay. We are not going anywhere. This is our country, our homes are here and we want our state," he said.

His comments were also in response to the ongoing wave of violence, economic slowdown in the West Bank and the political crisis within the Palestinian leadership.

He is said to be tired and his pro-negotiations policy is being criticized by many Palestinians who have become disillusioned with the failure to achieve statehood through negotiations.

Abbas' speech was held on Christmas Eve, according to the Greek Orthodox calendar, which marks the birth of Christ on January 7.

He was scheduled to attend Midnight Mass in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, led by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.

He also attended the Midnight Mass held by Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal on December 25 in the Biblical city.

The Palestinian leader warned at the start of his speech against selling West Bank land to Israelis.

The Arab community of the Greek Orthodox Church said its members would boycott the Greek patriarch's Christmas Eve procession to Bethlehem after they accused him of selling church property to Israelis.

However, Palestinian officials received Patriarch Theophilos on his arrival in Bethlehem earlier in the day.

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