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Olmert Accuses Settlers of 'Pogrom' Against Palestinians

The Israeli government and Jewish settlers are on a collision course after vigilante actions in the West Bank. At the same time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip will be closed on Monday because Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel Sunday. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lashed out at Jewish settlers in the West Bank who went on a rampage in a Palestinian village.

"The state of Israel does not allow pogroms against non-Jews," Olmert said. Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, he said settlers who take the law into their own hands will be punished.

Settlers attacked a neighboring village after a Palestinian infiltrated their community, damaged property and stabbed a nine-year-old Israeli boy five times. The boy suffered minor wounds and the assailant escaped. Six Palestinians were hurt when settlers opened fire and threw stones at homes in the village.

Settlement leaders are angry that Mr. Olmert used the word "pogrom," which usually refers to the persecution of Jews.

"Olmert did call it a pogrom and that displays a lack of intelligence more than anything else. I do not think that is a very smart thing to say," said Mr. Olmert.

Settlement activist Yisrael Meidad said Olmert is blaming the wrong side.

"Violence begets violence, and in my indication and sources, the violence started from the Arab side," said Meidad.

One Israeli military commentator described the situation in the West Bank as the "law of the jungle."