'Holocaust most heinous crime'
The mass killing of Jews in the Holocaust was "the most heinous crime" against humanity in the modern era, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said yesterday in his strongest remarks yet on the Nazi genocide.
The statement comes at a sensitive time for US-led peace efforts, with Israel having suspended faltering talks last week after Abbas reached an agreement with the Islamist Hamas movement to form a unity government.
In a statement released just hours before Israel began marking Holocaust remembrance day, the Palestinian leader expressed sympathy with families of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazi regime.
"What happened to the Jews in the Holocaust is the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era," Abbas said.
He also expressed his "sympathy with the families of the victims and many other innocent people who were killed by the Nazis".
His remarks, made in response to a question during talks last week with an American rabbi promoting Jewish-Muslim understanding, came as Israel and the Palestinians traded blame over the collapse of the peace talks.
Although the Palestinian leader has condemned the Holocaust in the past, his attitude has come in for heavy scrutiny since the early 1980s, when in his doctoral thesis he questioned the total number of Jews killed.
"No one can confirm or deny the figure peddled about by the rumour that six million Jews were among the victims," he wrote, suggesting the number "may number six million or be far fewer, even fewer than one million". In 2011, he reportedly said that he now accepts the figure of six million Jewish victims.