PA to Raze Synagogues, Spokesman Says

The Palestinian Authority will destroy the synagogues left behind by evacuating Israeli troops, a Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman said yesterday, hours after the Israeli cabinet voted not to demolish the synagogues.

All remaining buildings in the evacuated Jewish settlements will be destroyed except for the greenhouses, the spokesman, Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, told The Associated Press.

The Palestinians have expressed dismay at the Israeli decision, saying it puts them in an impossible position because they may be criticized for destroying houses of worship but at the same time they need the space for their development plans for post-Israel Gaza.

Israeli Arabs yesterday criticized the cabinet decision to leave the Gush Katif synagogues standing, and expressed concern regarding the ramifications of the decision.

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said the Israeli government planned to demolish the structures anyway, so it will be impossible to complain if the Palestinians decide to do so. "It's a ticking bomb that will lead to unnecessary conflict. My concern is that right-wing elements will exploit the opportunity to attack mosques," he said.

"Israel has no right to demand the structures not be bulldozed, after the courts and cabinet had decided to do so until yesterday. In addition, Israel converted hundreds of mosques in the territories into warehouses, restaurants or just plain leveled them," Zahalka said. He also called on the Palestinian Authority not to allow mobs to destroy the buildings, but to bulldoze them with the UN present.