Far-right suspected in mosque vandalism

Settlers allegedly set fire to, vandalize mosque near Nablus in response to earlier demolition of 3 homes in Migron outpost.

Mosque vandalism (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mosque vandalism
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Police have launched an investigation into an arson attack on a West Bank mosque by suspected far-right activists on Monday morning, hours after three homes at the Migron outpost were demolished by the IDF.
Palestinians told the IDF’s Civil Administration that windows were smashed and tires were burned inside the empty mosque in the village of Qusara, south of Nablus.
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The vandals spray-painted messages in Hebrew saying, “Social justice for Alei Ayin and Migron” (Alei Ayin is another outpost that was recently demolished) and “Muhammad is a pig” on the walls of the mosque. A Star of David was also spray-painted.
The Civil Administration contacted Judea and Samaria police, which launched an investigation and sent forensic officers to retrieve samples from the building.
A police spokeswoman said the mosque was not in use and “did not have any holy books inside.” The incident touched off a wave of furious responses from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor told Israel Radio he hoped the perpetrators would swiftly be brought to justice, adding that the attack on a mosque made him ashamed “as a Jew.”
Meridor said that the targeting of a religious symbol was a highly dangerous and foolish act during such a sensitive and volatile period in the region.
The Palestinian Authority claimed on Monday that the torching of the mosque, as well as continued construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem, is aimed at thwarting the PA leadership’s plan to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state later this month.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that these actions “show that Israel continues to reject peace.” He urged the international community to intervene with Israel to halt such practices, which he said were in violation of international law.
The PA mufti, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, strongly condemned the arson which, he claimed, took place under the watch of the Israeli authorities. He pointed out that Monday’s incident was the third of its kind against a mosque in the West Bank in recent months.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the mosque attack 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.
Hamas seized upon the incident to call for an end to PA security coordination with Israel, and said peace negotiations should not be restarted.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri said in a statement that the Islamist group sees the attack as dangerous “escalation.”
Palestinian sources added that rocks were thrown at Palestinian civilian traffic south of Nablus on Monday morning, Israel Radio reported.
In July, Palestinians from the village of al- Muayar, near Ramallah, reported that a carpet in a mosque was set fire. In that attack, vandals daubed the walls with the words “price tag,” a phrase right-wing activists have adopted to signal retribution for any Israeli demolitions in outposts.
In that attack too, the words “Alei Ayin,” referring to the outpost that was evacuated by security forces the week before the incident, were scrawled on the walls.
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.