Foreign Minister Silvan slammed the burning of Gaza synagogues, characterizing it as “a barbaric act by people who have no respect for holy places.”
Palestinians burn Gaza synagogues (Video: Reuters)
“This statement by Abu Mazen, (Palestinian leader Abbas) as if the buildings lost their sanctity is misplaced. The Palestinians did not invest any effort in preserving the synagogues and have thus failed their first mission,” he said. “We’ve seen acts by terror groups manifested through severe vandalism.”
“The responsibility is placed on the Palestinians,” he said. “Abu Mazen must remember the eyes of the entire world are turned to the Strip today and the anarchy threatens him and his people more than it threatens us.”
Palestinian mob in Netzarim (Photo: Reuters)
The burning of synagogues in the Gaza Strip is a demonstration of Palestinian barbarity, with the Palestinian Authority, as usual, showing a complete inability to respond, Knesset Member Shaul Yahalom (National Religious Party) said.
“This is the ultimate proof of the terrible future we can expect from the terrorists of Gaza,” he said.
Meanwhile, Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz said the burning of synagogues in Gaza proves “we have no genuine, responsible partner for peace on the other side, but at most, a partner for excuses.”
“Israel must initiate a diplomatic, public relations offensive that would expose the Palestinian government’s true face to the world,” he said.
Right wing extremists called on the Israeli government to demolish the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in response to the burning of the synagogues, claiming “there is no better time than now.”
“If the government does not do it, no one should be surprised to find proud Jews standing up and doing it instead,” said one source
Synagogues set on fire
A Palestinian mob raided early Monday evacuated Gaza settlements and proceeded to sow destruction and vandalize them. Four synagogues, in Morag, Netzarim, Neve Dekalim, and Kfar Darom, were torched.
Around 2:30 a.m., a Palestinian mob from Khan Younis raided the settlement of Morag and set the community's synagogue on fire. The masses were holding PLO and Hamas flags, and fired shots in the air and fireworks in celebration.
"This is only the first step of the liberation. Tomorrow we'll liberate all of Palestine," the Palestinians yelled. Meanwhile, youngsters looted whatever they could find, including tables, chairs, and other furniture.
Palestinian police officers were stunned in the face of the mob and were unable to contain it. Palestinian officers complained the force deployed at the community was too small, about 300 troops, and could not handle the rioters.
Later, the masses reached Netzarim as well, shattered the deserted synagogue's windows and attempted to set it on fire. Palestinian police forces at the scene attempted to stop the vandals, but to no avail. Palestinians made their way to the synagogue's rooftop, held up flags, and yelled out: "We don't want anything to remain that will remind us of the occupation."
In Kfar Darom, a mob also set the synagogue on fire.
In Neve Dekalim, a synagogue that served as a yeshiva was also set on fire. The large building was slightly damaged by thick smoke rose above the area.
"The Israelis destroy our homes and our mosques. Now is our turn to destroy theirs," said one of the rioters, Ahmed.
PA to raze synagogues
Early Monday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying synagogues in evacuated settlements will be destroyed by the PA.
"The Israelis left behind empty structures that served as synagogues in the past," the statement read. "But they removed all religious artifacts from there and therefore they are no longer holy places."
Earlier, Palestinian Authority officials blasted Israel's decision to leave Gaza Strip synagogues intact, and said the move placed the Palestinians in a "no win" situation.
Read Ynetnews' coverage of Gush Katif synagogues
Interior Minister Tawfiq al-Husa promised the buildings would be destroyed. Other officials said Israel had "trapped" the Palestinians.
Mohammed Dahlan, PA Minister for Civilian Affairs and the minister responsible for disengagement, said the Palestinians recognize no difference between the synagogues and other buildings in former Jewish communities.
But Dahlan did not say specifically the PA would destroy the synagogues, but aides said the Palestinians would not allow Israel to demand continued presence in the ruined settlements.
"Israel has turned Gaza into a large prison by closing the Rafah border crossing for the next six months.
"We totally reject that," he said.