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The mass killing of Jews in the Holocaust was “the most heinous crime” against humanity in the modern era, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Sunday 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 in English and Arabic 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.

“On the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust Day, we call on the Israeli government to seize the current opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the two states vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” Abbas said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas says Holocaust ‘most heinous crime’ of modern era

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