A number of news websites affiliated with the Palestinian Authority claimed on Monday that the Itamar murders were committed by a foreign worker who was employed in the settlement.
PA-controlled media outlets also highlighted the story and continued to cast doubt about Israeli claims that Palestinians were behind the killings.
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The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an, which is close to the PA leadership, ran a lead news story that claimed that a Thai worker had been arrested by the IDF on suspicion of killing the five members of the Fogel family on Friday night.
The agency did not say how it obtained the information. However, it said that shortly after the killings, Israeli security forces arrested all the Thai workers who were inside the settlement.
Ma’an pointed out that no Palestinian group had claimed responsibility for the attack and that Palestinians were banned from entering settlements.
Another Palestinian news agency, Qudsnet, claimed that an Asian man who used to work for the Fogel family was behind the killings.
Quoting a Palestinian family living in the nearby village of Awarta, the agency said that the family members were slaughtered because the father refused to pay the Asian worker his salary, which is estimated at NIS 10,000.
The IDF would not comment, due to a gag order imposed on the investigation.
The latest claims came as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with Israel Radio, condemned the Itamar killings as “despicable, immoral and inhuman.” Abbas said that a “human being is not capable of something like that” and that if the PA would have had advance information, “we would have prevented this.”
Offering to help Israel in the investigation, Abbas rejected accusations of incitement and said he was prepared to be part of an Israeli-American- Palestinian committee to look into the allegations.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Abbas’s condemnation of the
Itamar murders, but added during a meeting of the Knesset’s Likud
faction that it was more important for the PA leader to say these words
in the Palestinian media.
Netanyahu pointed out that a number of senior voices in the PA are
claiming that the settlers and the government were behind the murders to
scuttle the diplomatic process, and therefore it was critical for Abbas
to speak clearly to his own people and put an end to incitement.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that since the media and
educational systems were under the PA’s direct control, ending the
incitement was something Abbas could “act on today.”
Netanyahu said Saturday night in his televised statement following the
murders that he was disappointed in the “weak and mumbled” condemnations
of the killings coming from the PA.