Palestinian president criticizes West Bank settlements

Amid an Israeli photo scandal that rivals Abu Ghraib, President Mahmoud Abbas speaks out

Mohammed Daraghmeh
October 25, 2010 8:15PM (UTC)

The Palestinian president says Israel's prime minister should not warn him against taking unilateral steps when Israel has been building West Bank settlements on its own for decades.

Mahmoud Abbas was referring to a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said the Palestinians have no options for peace except direct negotiations. Palestinians have been indicating they might ask for U.N. recognition of a state of their own if they give up on peace talks.


Abbas said Israel has been taking one-sided measures for decades in the West Bank.

"Settlements are a unilateral step taken by Israel," Abbas said during a visit to Bethlehem Monday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.


JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli reservists critical of their military's treatment of Palestinians have released new photos that appear to show Israeli soldiers holding assault rifles to the head of a blindfolded Palestinian man and spraypainting "Be right back" on the wall of a Gaza home.

The images, released Monday by the Breaking the Silence group, are the latest in a series of pictures to surface in recent months showing what appears to be soldiers mistreating Palestinians.

Breaking the Silence said it published the pictures on its Facebook page to rebut the military's contention that improper conduct by soldiers is an aberration.


"We will continue to release photos every so often to prove that this is the norm, this is how soldiers behave, and this is the price of occupation," said group member Yehuda Shaul.

"We lose our ability to see Palestinians as our equals."

It was impossible to independently confirm the authenticity of the photos, but they resemble others that have been released in recent months.


The military said it "regretted" that the group published the photos rather than bringing them directly to the army to be investigated. It said the pictures did not reflect the values of the military.

One photo appeared to show a helmetless soldier holding a rifle to the head of a Palestinian man whom he holds at bay. Another soldier, wearing a helmet, is holding up a rifle behind the man's back.

A second photo seemed to show a soldier spray-painting a Star of David and "Be right back" on the wall of a Palestinian home.


The soldiers' faces were blacked out when they appeared on Facebook.

Shaul said the group received the photos two weeks ago and was told they were shot during Israel's war in the Gaza Strip nearly two years ago. He said he could not absolutely confirm that was the case, but said details from the photos, like the military units shown there, supported that claim.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military launched an investigation into a YouTube video that showed an Israeli soldier belly dancing suggestively around a blindfolded Palestinian woman who was standing along a wall.


In August, a young ex-soldier posted pictures of herself in uniform, posing in front of handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian prisoners on her Facebook page. Earlier this year, a video showed a group of soldiers patrolling in the West Bank suddenly stop to do a choreographed dance to party music.

Mohammed Daraghmeh

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