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Fayyad condemns deadly settlement attack

March 12, 2011 1:25 P.M. (Updated: March 14, 2011 10:04 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Prime minister-designate Salam Fayyad said Saturday that his government rejects violence without exception and has always condemned extremism.

Asked whether he was referring to the killing of five Israelis in a West Bank settlement, Fayyad answered, “Yes. I am referring to what happened in Itamar settlement last night."

"An infant, two children and their parents were the victims, and as we have always rejected violence against our people, we reject it against others and we condemn it.”

Fayyad added, while inaugurating a new building for the Beit Jala municipal council, that violence could not be justified no matter what the pretext, goal or identity of the intended victim.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said "this is a despicable murder of an entire innocent family, parents, children and an infant, while they were sleeping in their home on the Sabbath evening."

He called on the Palestinian Authority to assist in tracking down the killers: "Israel will not stand by idly after such a despicable murder and will act vigorously to safeguard the lives of the citizens of Israel and punish the murderers," Israeli media quoted a statement from Netanyahu's office as saying.

Israeli forces stormed the northern West Bank village of Awarta early Saturday, hours after the killing of five Israelis from one family in the Itamar settlement less than a half-kilometer away.

Forces surrounded the village’s cemetery searching for suspects and imposed a curfew.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces started house-to-house inspections in the village. Homes of relatives of two Palestinians, killed a few months ago near Itamar, were stormed, according to locals.

Israel's military besieged other areas in the northern West Bank after the apparent attack, closing checkpoints and initiating aggressive searches with police dogs and helicopters.

Military checkpoints which had been evacuated in recent months were erected again. Soldiers reoccupied the Huwwara post south of Nablus, the Taneib checkpoint to the west, and Al-Badhan in the north.

Flying checkpoints were also set up after the attack. Locals said all Palestinians who attempted to cross in or out of Nablus were searched and sent back after the army declared the region a closed military zone.

In Jenin, Israeli forces swept through southern villages, but there were no reports of home raids or arrests. Soldiers fired stun grenades in Zbabdeh, Sanour and Maslyeh, residents said.

An army spokeswoman said the military had no immediate comment on the operations.

Tension between Palestinians and settlers in the area has been extremely high in recent days. On Monday, Israeli soldiers fired live rounds at Palestinians after they clashed with settlers near Nablus.

Ten Palestinians and a settler were wounded during the violence, according to Palestinian medical sources and a spokesman for the settlers.

A week earlier, police clashed with settlers in the Havat Gilad outpost west of Nablus as officers moved in to remove a caravan, a tent and another half-built illegal structure there.

That prompted settlers to firebomb a house in Huwarra village, which saw two Palestinian children taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

They also smashed up shops and cars in the southern city of Hebron and settlers also cut down 500 olive tree saplings that had been planted on the site of a former settlement outpost.

The settlers routinely react when police and soldiers demolish structures in settlements or wildcat settlement outposts in what are known as "price tag" attacks, which often target Palestinians.

This violence against the local population is a direct response to what they consider "anti-settler" activity by the Israeli government.

Netanyahu on Tuesday warned hardline settlers that such attacks were unacceptable.

The last deadly attack on a West Bank settlement was on August 31 last year, when four settlers were killed near Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank.

Two other Israelis were wounded in an attack the following day in Ramallah.

The following month, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas said those responsible for both attacks had been arrested. He identified them as members of the rival Hamas group that controls the Gaza Strip.
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