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Abbas Criticizes Israeli Response to Attack on Palestinian Farmers

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of not protecting Palestinian olive farmers against recent attacks by Jewish settlers.

Palestinian newspapers published Mr. Abbas's comments Monday after an attack over the weekend on two news photographers and a British activist helping farmers with the annual olive harvest. The Palestinian leader said Israel's failure to protect the harvest means it is not serious about a peace deal.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has responded by condemning the harassment of the farmers and called the attackers "hooligans." But he also dismissed Abbas' claims and said the military is doing its best to protect the farmers.

Thousands of Palestinians participate in the annual olive harvest, which is critical to their economy.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres will meet with his Egyptian counterpart this week to focus on promoting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the impact of the global financial crisis.

Egypt has been brokering a possible prisoner exchange between Israel and Gaza's Hamas leaders. Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier kidnapped two years ago in southern Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.