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Abbas retracts rabbis 'water poisoning' comment

Palestinian leader admits his claims at the EU were baseless but rejects "blood libel" claim of the Israeli PM.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has retracted comments he made this week about an alleged plot by rabbis calling on Jewish settlers to poison the drinking water of Palestinians.

Abbas' office acknowledged on Saturday that his comments were "baseless", adding he "didn't intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world."

In a speech to the European Union in Brussels on Thursday, Abbas made claims of a plot to poison Palestinian wells, sparking accusations of anti-Semitism.

Abbas's speech, denouncing Israel for stalling the peace talks, received a standing ovation from European lawmakers, but his allegation about the water poisoning drew strong condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said Abbas showed his "true face" by spreading such a "blood libel" and called on him to cease inciting against Israel.

For Jews, allegations of water poisoning strike a bitter chord.

In the 14th century, Jews were accused of deliberately poisoning wells that caused plague across Europe.

Another allegation from the Middle Ages -- that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood for ritual purposes -- gave rise to the term "blood libel".

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