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Barghouthi: Settlers could commit massacre

Sept. 5, 2011 2:57 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 7, 2011 5:54 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi on Monday warned of a conspiracy between the Israeli government and Jewish settlers to attack Palestinians ahead of the upcoming bid for UN membership.

Barghouthi told Ma'an that Monday's attack on a mosque in the northern West Bank was "a very dangerous development" and noted it was not an isolated incident.

Palestinian Authority settlement affairs official Ghassan Doughlas said Jewish settlers set fire to tires and smashed windows in Al-Nurayn mosque in Qusra, south of Nablus early Monday morning.

Hebrew-language graffiti reading "Mohammad is a pig" and the star of David were sprayed on the building.

"Migron and Eli Ayn are social justice" was also sprayed on the mosque referring to two illegal outposts.

Also on Monday, settlers from Betar Illit settlement flooded Palestinian farmland near Bethlehem with sewage while settlers in Nablus set fire to vast areas of Palestinian land in Burin.

Barghouthi said the attacks were "part of a plan" to use settlers to attack Palestinians, and that the Israeli military was participating in "organized crime" with settlers in the West Bank.

"These people are extremists and we warn that they could commit massacres against the Palestinians."

He noted that the army was providing settlers with military facilities.

Settler and military officials said last week that Israel's army has been training Jewish settlers to deal with any eruption of Palestinian protests alongside a planned bid for statehood at the United Nations this month.

The Israeli Haaretz said the military had been training settlement security chiefs and their teams and giving them tear gas and stun grenades. Most settlers already have assault rifles or pistols.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced Monday's attack on the West Bank mosque as an act of terrorism.

"These acts are what threaten to pull the region into a cycle of violence," Fayyad's office said in a statement, adding that the Palestinians themselves would not revert to violence.

Fayyad's office criticized the Israeli police for failing to track down those behind previous such violence.

"The prime minister holds Israel completely responsible for the continuation of these terrorist acts because of its failure to pursue the perpetrators of this type of attack on previous occasions and bring them to account," its statement said.

Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 Israeli police investigations of settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash also condemned the attack.

"Continuation of such a racist policy against holy places is very dangerous and will lead to unfavorable consequence and tension in the region. All efforts to achieve peace and stability will be thwarted as racial aggressions continue," he said in a statement.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas lawmakers denounced what they called an "Israeli crime."

"This is a criminal act and a new Israeli religious war indicating how ugly occupation is," the lawmakers said in a statement.

The Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza said the attack was "new evidence of the Jews' grudge towards our people and nation, and their enmity to our religion and holy places."

Reuters contributed to this report.
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