Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday condemned the attack on West Bank settlement Itamar in which five Israelis were murdered.

In a statement released by his office, Abbas "stressed his rejection and condemnation of all violence directed against civilians, regardless of who was behind it or the reason for it.”

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Abbas added that "violence produces violence and what is needed is to speed up a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Palestinian Authority said that there was no evidence of Palestinian involvement in the terror attack in Itamar.

Hours after the attack, PA security services released a senior Hamas operative who had been held in Palestinian prison for four months.

The man, Wajdi Abdel Rahim Taha, was released because he had gone on hunger strike and there was fear for his life, a PA security source said, adding that Taha had not been involved in violence.

“He’s a political activist,” the source said. “He has been arrested for questioning several times in the past. Before that he was in an Israeli jail.”

PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said that his ministry condemned “any act that targets civilians, regardless of their identity.”

He said that the ministry condemns what the killing of Israelis by “people whose identity remains unknown.”

Al-Malki pointed out that Itamar was built on lands belonging to Nablus.

“The killing of an infant and the slaughtering of people in this way was never carried out by any Palestinians for national motives or revenge,” he added. “This puts a question mark over the swift accusation made by the Israeli side – to the effect that Palestinians had carried out the attack.”

The PA foreign minister, said, however, that in any case the attack does not benefit the Palestinian national struggle and the “resistance.” Such attacks, he stressed, are also harmful to the Palestinians’ political and diplomatic efforts in the international arena.

In response to the Itamar attack, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said that he “categorically” rejects violence and has long condemned it.

Speaking to reporters in Bet Jalla, near Bethlehem, Fayyad said: “We reject this violence and condemn it as we have repeatedly rejected it against our people.”

He added that violence does not justify violence “and we reject it regardless of the reasons and goals and the identity of the perpetrators or victims.”

PA officials in Ramallah expressed skepticism over a statement released by Fatah’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in which it claims responsibility for the killings.

The statement said that the “heroic” operation was a “natural response to massacres committed by the occupation against our people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. It added that the perpetrator managed to return to his base safely.

However, the officials said that a Fatah group was behind the attack. They pointed out that there was a possibility that the attack was carried out by members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

Hamas also hailed the attack as a “heroic operation” and “natural response to Israeli crimes and massacres.” In Rafah, some Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the killings and handed sweets to passersby and drivers, eyewitnesses reported.

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