The United States, Israel’s top leaders and the Palestinian Authority harshly
condemned a pre-dawn “price-tag” attack Tuesday by Jewish right-wing extremists
against a West Bank Palestinian mosque.
“Hateful, dangerous and
provocative actions such as these are never justified,” State Department
spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington later that
“This was the work of intolerant, irresponsible lawbreakers,”
said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “We will act quickly in order to bring
them to justice.”
He spoke hours after vandals entered the Palestinian
village of Jaba, near Ramallah, to set fire to a mosque. They also spray painted
the words “Ulpana war” in black Hebrew letters on the mosque’s wall, referring
to the West Bank outpost which is slated for demolition on July 1. Police said
it was the work of far-right activists.
“We suspect this is a price-tag
incident,” a police spokesman said, referring to a term coined by far-right
elements to describe hate crimes launched in response to state demolitions of
The mosque was lightly damaged in the attack.
of Jaba, Abdel Karim Sharaf, said he had no doubt that extremist settlers were
behind the attack.
Villagers noticed that the mosque was on fire around 2
a.m., he said. Hundreds of residents rushed to save the mosque and extinguish
the fire, he added. He said that IDF soldiers also rushed to the village upon
being notified of the assault.
The mayor warned that such attacks could
trigger violence in the area.
Ahmed Nasser, a resident of Jaba, said he
woke up to the screams of villagers who saw the mosque on fire.
saw the perpetrators,” he said. “But we have no doubt that the attack was
carried out by Jewish settlers. Some people found matches with Hebrew writing
inside the mosque.”
Another resident, Hussein Abdel Latif, said that the
graffiti in Hebrew that was sprayed on the walls of the mosque proves that
settlers were behind the attack. The settlers, he charged, “feel free to carry
out such attacks because they enjoy the support of the Israeli government and
Police commissioner Ch.-Insp. Yohanan Danino said recent
nationalistic crimes were severe and had to be stopped.
religious symbols and holy sites is a grave and explosive phenomenon which has
consequences for the wider public,” he said. Police have repeatedly expressed
their fears that a hate crime could touch off a wave of unrest in the West
Judea and Samaria police attended the scene and gathered forensic
Danino passed down orders to police to do all that was possible
to arrest the perpetrators, and to invest high levels of resources “to bring the
criminals to justice and place them behind bars.”
So far, just two people
have been charged for far-right hate crimes. Last year, police set up a national
taskforce operating under the Lahav 433 unit to oversee efforts to arrest
The unit’s main goal was to ensure that arrests were made and
that charges and prosecutions would follow.
Sources in the IDF Central
Command voiced concern that additional attacks would take place and that the
overall situation would escalate ahead of the planned demolition of the Ulpana
The sources said the IDF was prepared for such an increase and
was bolstering its forces in areas it predicted settlers and Palestinians would
clash in the coming weeks. One particular hotspot has been near the settlement
of Yitzhar, which has seen several clashes between the groups in recent
The police recently confiscated a number of weapons from members
of the settlement’s rapid response security teams.
In spite of these
efforts, PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh held the Israeli government fully
responsible for “such crimes,” arguing that it was not serious in maintaining
security. Abu Rudaineh said that this was the sixth attack of its kind against
Islamic religious sites in the West Bank since the beginning of the
Israeli “condemnations were not enough,” the spokesman said. “The
Israeli prime minister must stop these assaults on worshipping places and
residents and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
The PA Minister for
Wakf [Islamic trust] Affairs Mahmoud Habbash also blamed the Israeli government
for the mosque attack because of its support for the settlers.
that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed his ministry to immediately
renovate the mosque so that it would be ready to receive worshipers this coming
“Israel’s continued assaults against our mosques is an aggression
on Islam and all Muslims,” Habbash said during a visit to the
Sheikh Ekerma Sabri, chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council in
Jerusalem, denounced the mosque attack as an act of cowardice and
He added that the incident was in the context of a “comprehensive
war that is being waged against our holy sites and homes and every inch of our
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, was among a number of top
Israeli leaders who spoke out strongly against the attack, calling it a
“criminal act” and promising a swift response by the IDF.
“This is a
grave and criminal act meant to destroy the social fabric in the region and
distract the IDF from its missions, which include protecting Israeli citizens in
the region,” Barak said. “I have instructed the IDF and security forces to act
with all available means in order to capture the perpetrators and to bring them
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the graffiti an
act of “terror,” adding that such activities harm not only Israel but also the
“Just yesterday I said at a hasbara [public
diplomacy] conference that price-tag attacks are illegal, immoral and gravely
undermine the image of Israel and the settlement enterprise under the gaze of
the international community,” Ayalon wrote on his Facebook page.
here, this morning, we hear about another price-tag attack. We must not allow
such acts of terrorism to continue.”
Judea and Samaria Council head Danny
Dayan also condemned the attack, calling it immoral and saying that it damages
the settlement enterprise.
Right-wing activist Baruch Marzel of Hebron,
however, said the attack was the result of deep frustration by teenagers against
the government’s racist policy toward settlers. He warned that price-tag
incidents would increase in proportion to this level of
frustration.Tovah Lazaroff and Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this