Hundreds of Palestinian youths desecrated and set fire to a number of Jewish synagogues in Neve Dakalim within hours of the Israeli troop pullout.Palestinian police tried to stop the destruction, but they were outnumbered by the crowd. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, expressed his anger, saying Israel expected the “dignity” of holy places to be maintained. But the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, defended the move. “The Jews didn’t leave any synagogues, they removed all symbols of religion and we as Muslims know the sanctity of religious places,” he said. “Let’s not forget that these Synagogues had been left there in a way that would not allow them to continue,” he added. Abbas may gain widespread support if the pullout pacifies Palestinian areas and allows the economy to develop. This could help his Fatah movement ward off an electoral challenge by Hamas militants.