Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed that Jewish extremists would not be
allowed to spark a religious war, after a West Bank mosque was vandalized at
dawn on Thursday.
“We won’t let them [Jewish extremists] attack our
, start a religious war, set fire to mosques [and] attack Jews or
non-Jews,” the prime minister told a Likud central committee meeting in Tel Aviv
on Thursday night.RELATED:
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A group of far-right activists is assumed to have
targeted the mosque, near Ramallah, in a “price-tag” attack in retribution for
IDF actions carried out at the same time, when soldiers demolished a home and a
at the unauthorized Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost near
After they broke into the mosque in the Burka village, the
vandals lit a fire in the women’s prayer section on the top floor. The blaze was
extinguished before it spread to the rest of the structure.
also spray-painted red Hebrew words on an interior wall: “Mitpze Yitzhar” and
“war.” Graffiti with the words “price tag” were written on the mosque’s exterior
Later in the morning, angry Palestinians threw rocks at police who
tried to enter Burka to investigate the attack.
“It was impossible to go
inside,” police spokeswoman Nurit Tzemah said. “We had intended to collect
samples from the crime scene.”
Police plan to either enter the village at
a later date or use photos from the scene taken by the Civil Administration of
Judea and Samaria.
Palestinians also stoned two Israeli buses, lightly
wounding two child passengers near Ramallah and a woman on a bus near
Separately, a 23-year-old Israeli was arrested by the IDF after
allegedly being caught spray-painting graffiti such as “Nazi” and “price tag” on
concrete blocks surrounding an army position in Samaria.
further inflamed tensions in the West Bank, which were already high after three
price-tag attacks late on Monday night and early on Tuesday morning, in which
Jewish activists vandalized an army base, assaulted two IDF commanders and
breached the security fence with Jordan.
The price-tag attacks sparked
fierce debate among politicians, rabbis and settlement leaders, with Defense
Minister Ehud Barak calling for the extremists to be treated as
Netanyahu rejected that call but came down harshly on the
extremists. He ordered that they be tried in military courts and that
administrative detentions be used against them.
On Thursday night, the
prime minister was careful to distinguish between the pricetag vandals and the
settlers as a whole, most of whom, he said, were “loyal” and “law abiding”
As for the extremists, however, he was less
“We will act with a strong hand and make sure they’re
prosecuted. The law is the law. Justice is justice,” Netanyahu told the
Likud central committee.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s people who
attack our security forces in the Ephraim Brigade base or in [the Palestinian
village of] Bil’in,” he said.
But in the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost, located
on the outskirts of the Yitzhar settlement, settlers looking at the debris of
the small modular home that had been demolished at dawn said it was the IDF that
had launched a war against them.
Settlers were careful to explain that
they did not condone attacks on the army. They said incidents took place within
a context in which the IDF was acting as if they were the enemy by destroying
“They are trying to demonize us,” Yitzhar resident Yoel
Noiman said as he stood by the debris of the home where a young man had hoped to
start a new life with his bride in another month.
The people who live
here are in danger from both the Palestinians and the IDF, said Noiman, who said
he had been shot at by Palestinians three times as he drove in the West
When his children see a policeman, “they want to know, is this a
good officer or a bad one,” he said.
After two or three nights of warnings, the soldiers sneaked into Mitzpe Yitzhar
around 3:30 a.m., he told The Jerusalem Post
. Activists who placed burning
tires, barbed wire, stones and oil on the road leading to Yitzhar could not stop
Settlers learned that the soldiers were coming less than an hour
before they surrounded the small caravan.
As Noiman’s daughter, Tiferet,
eight, searched through the ruins, he described how the soldiers had sneaked up
the hill on foot, through the adjacent Palestinian village.
trouble reaching the home set for demolition because soldiers and border
policemen kept stopping him. At one point they grabbed him roughly and in
another they knocked his glasses off, breaking them.
Noiman said that he
now wore a spare pair.
The security forces took almost everything out of
the home and then brought cranes at around 5:40 to knock it down, he
According to Yitzhar spokesman Avraham Binyamin, the security
personnel also destroyed a chicken coop. Roosters and chickens wandered loose
through the debris.
“There were no significant confrontations or
arrests,” police spokeswoman Tzemah said.
The state had promised the High
Court of Justice that it would remove the two structures by the end of December
because they are located on land classified by the state as belonging to
individual Palestinians. Peace Now had petitioned the court to enforce the law
in this matter.
The state, however, did not move against the other five
homes at the outpost because, it said, they were on state land.
Binyamin took issue with this. That land had simply not completed the
classification process, he said.
“What is happening here is about
politics and not law,” the Yitzhar spokesman said. All that is required to
legalize the homes is the signature of the Defense Ministry, he
Palestinians in the surrounding villages build illegally, while the
IDF selectively enforces the building code against Jews, he
Binyamin noted that in the hours following the demolition,
the residents had collected donations from Israel and abroad that would allow
them to rebuild the home.
“We will build a second home there as well,” he
In Burka, Palestinians told the Post
they felt they were under
siege from both the IDF and the settlers.
Sayel Kanan, a
Palestinian-American, said the mosque had been built seven years ago with money
raised mainly from Palestinians living in the United States.
In a room
that smelled of smoke and kerosene, he pointed out holes in the blackened
carpet. A number of prayer books were also destroyed, he said.
Barkat said villagers first noticed the blaze when they came to pray at around
“We put it out and prayed outside,” he said.
brother, Zaki, the mosque’s imam, said this had not been the first time the
village was attacked by Jewish extremists.
“It is very important to stop
such attacks,” which have angered the village residents and could inspire them
to acts of retribution, he said.
“People cannot be patient for ever,” he
Village council member Ahmed Moten blamed the government and IDF,
which, he said, had done nothing to stop such acts of “terrorism.”
are sure the government is supporting these attacks,” he said.
It is as
if Israel has declared war on the Palestinians, Moten said.
afraid to sleep at night,” Kanan said. The village’s olive trees have been
chopped down by settlers in the past, he said.
His home was also
attacked, Kanan said, and two cars were torched.
He showed the Post
vandals had sprayed-painted large red Hebrew letters on the walls of his home
that said, “Vengeance on Arabs.” They also drew a red Star of David.