price tag 311.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Major communal strife was narrowly avoided in the Galilee on Monday following an
arson and vandalism attack on a mosque in a Beduin village.
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factorPalestinians report further 'price tag' attack in W.
tag” incident spurred police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to launch
an extensive investigation and divert considerable resources to capturing
far-right elements suspected of being behind the attack.
enraged residents of Tuba Zanghariya – where many locals serve in the IDF – had
begun a march to Rosh Pina on Sunday morning after heavy damage was discovered
in the village’s main mosque.
Fire damage to inner walls, a burned-out
carpet and burned religious books were found in the morning, as well as Hebrew
graffiti that read “revenge,” “price tag,” and “Palmer” – a reference to Asher
Hillel Palmer and his baby son Yonatan, who were killed in September on Route 60
near Kiryat Arba in the West Bank.
The furious marchers were blocked by
police firing tear gas. After a brief clash in which rocks were thrown at
police, the marchers dispersed.
At the same time, northern police district head Cmdr. Roni Atiya arrived on the scene and launched a
day-long dialogue with village notables and local Arab officials to convey the
police’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice, to request calm and
to ask villagers to come forward with eyewitness statements to assist the
Israeli police said a number of suspects were
arrested following the incident. No further details were immediately
available on the arrests.
As forensic evidence was extracted from the
mosque and taken to police labs for analysis, police assembled a special task
force made up of the elite Lahav unit and detectives from the northern district,
who are working together with the Shin Bet to track down suspected far-right
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post
efforts at dialogue paid off on Sunday, and that police do not expect communal
violence to break out in the North.
“I’m more than optimistic that we
will capture those responsible,” Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch
said while visiting the mosque. As he scoped out the damage, tears formed in the
minister’s eyes. “They are causing damage to our fabric of life,” he
said. “We are all brothers in the Middle East. An incident like this will
not spoil our relationship.”
Addressing villagers, Aharonovitch said,
“You are dear and loved people. Don’t let these criminals mislead you. My job is
to capture them and put them on trial. I left a government meeting to come here
and identify with you.”
Earlier, Aharonovitch called the incident a
“criminal and despicable attack on a holy place.”
Police sources note
this is not the first time that provocative vandalism was carried out under the
banner of the far-right within the Green Line, and point to a similar incident
that occurred in the northern Arab village of Ibillin in 2010 as an
At the same time, police are highly concerned by the possibility
that such events could spark a major incident that could easily spiral out of
control against the background of current regional turmoil.
In an effort
to prevent any further attacks, police stepped up security around mosques and
Islamic symbols around the country.
On Sunday evening, youths in Tuba
threw stones at police and blocked the entrance to the village. They were
dispersed by police with tear gas and stun grenades. Large numbers of police
remain deployed in the village.
Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino ordered
all police districts, as well as the police’s Operations Branch, to go on alert
in areas with Muslim communities.
The police’s head of operations, Cmdr.
Nissim Mor, ordered his officers to pool intelligence and map out areas where
future price tag incidents could occur and to increase police patrols in areas
with Muslim communities.
Last month, police announced the formation of a
special task force to track down and arrest far-right extremists who were behind
a string of price tag incidents on Palestinian mosques in the West
“These acts are so dangerous, and harmful on a national level,”
Danino said in September. “They can result in an escalation, and this is
the last thing the country needs.”