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Fatah militants: Killing children unacceptable

March 14, 2011 1:46 P.M. (Updated: March 15, 2011 2:04 P.M.)
JENIN (Ma’an) -- The military wing of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said Monday that its activists had no part in the slaying of five members of a settler family in Itamar on Friday night.

Commenting on the nature of the killings, in which five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death, including a three-month-old baby, the brigades said they "oppose the targeting of civilians and killing of children no matter what the pretext may be."

The killings triggered settler outrage and an Israeli military manhunt in the northern West Bank, and were condemned by the Palestinian Authority. President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the killings were "inhuman."

Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades came under scrutiny after an offshoot with loose affiliation going by the "Imad Mughniyya Group" sent a statement to media outlets claiming to have carried out the attack, but details from the statement did not match statements from investigators. Members of the group in Gaza later denied any involvement.

The loose connection with the Al-Aqsa brigades saw some news reports point fingers at the group, prompting the release of a statement saying "All statements released by other groups claiming they are affiliated to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades under any names, are false and unacceptable."

The brigades went on to condemn the wave of settler attacks targeting Palestinians, saying "Our people are encountering unprecedented frantic attacks by mobs of settlers," adding that the attacks were creating an increasingly unstable situation in the West Bank as the rest of the Arab world was in turmoil.

"Settlers have escalated their aggression, [they are] taking advantage of this time following the killing of five settlers. Israel claims that the killing was a 'natural outcome' from Palestinian 'incitement' against settlers, saying we urge people to attack innocent people," the statement said, adding that the allegations were untrue.

The militant group said it held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "completely responsible for the latest breakdown ... the government has unleashed settlers who have been attacking Palestinians, provoking them day and night."

Israel must not "take advantage of the death of innocents," the statement concluded.

Within 24 hours of the deaths, Netanyahu aprroved the construction of 500 new settlement buildings, even as international groups called for an urgent return to peace talks, which Palestinians say can not go forward as long as illegal settlements continue to be built on occupied land.
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