Hamas denounced any resumption of peace negotiations with Israel following Monday's attack on a mosque in the West Bank, adding that the Palestinian Authority ought to stop all security coordination with Israel, UPI reported.

Despite the fact that an IDF investigation into the vandalism just began Monday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri said in a statement that the Islamist group sees the attack as a dangerous "escalation" by the "settler movement and occupation army in the West Bank."

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As both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been making different mentions of the need to return to peace negotiations, the Hamas spokesman said that "any return to negotiations in light of these crimes provides cover for the occupation and its continuation."

Also on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the attack on the mosque near Nablus as an act of terrorism.

"These acts are what threaten to pull the region into a cycle of violence," Fayyad's office said in a statement, adding that the Palestinians themselves would not revert to violence.

Mustafa Barghouthi said on Monday that the Israeli government is conspiring with settlers to attack Palestinians in the lead up to the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

Barghouthi is a medical doctor, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, and supports "democracy through non-violent resistance," according to his official website.


Settlers allegedly set fire to the mosque south of Nablus early Monday morning, in an apparent response to the earlier demolition of three homes in the Migron outpost by the civil administration, the Ma'an news agency quoted Palestinian sources as saying.

Ma'an quoted the sources as saying the settlers stormed the mosque in the West Bank village of Qusara, smashing glass and setting fire to a number of tires within the mosque.

Rabbis for Human Rights corroborated the report, saying that the fire damaged the first floor of the structure in which the mosque is housed, but did not destroy it. Vandals also sprayed the messages "Social justice for Alei Ein and Migron" and "Muhammad is a pig" on the walls. Alei Ein is another West Bank outpost which has had illegal structures demolished.

The rights organization also speculated that the arson incident was a "price tag" attack in retribution for the demolition at  Migron. "Price tag" is a phrase right-wing settlers have adopted to signal retribution for any Israeli moves against settlement-outposts built without government authorization.

Judea and Samaria Police received a report from the IDF about the mosque and were investigating the incident.

Police added that the mosque was not in use, and did not have holy books in it. Police officers entered the mosque to retrieve forensic findings.

Palestinian authorities say settlers have attacked at least six mosques in the West Bank in the past two years. Fayyad's office criticized the Israeli police for failing to track down those behind previous such violence.

"The prime minister holds Israel completely responsible for the continuation of these terrorist acts because of its failure to pursue the perpetrators of this type of attack on previous occasions and bring them to account," its statement said.

Reuters contributed to this report

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