muslim desecrated cemetary.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
A Muslim cemetery in Hebron was vandalized and the tires of 22 Palestinian cars were slashed early Sunday morning by settlers angry at the IDF evacuation of an unauthorized outpost in nearby Kiryat Arba.
The bulk of the damage took place a short distance away from the outpost, near the four-story building known as Beit Hashalom, which overlooks the main road linking Kiryat Arba and Hebron.
At around 2 a.m., in full view of a small IDF guard post, settlers went into the sandy parking lot next to Beit Hashalom and slashed the tires of the cars that were parked there.
They also splattered blue paint on tombstones in the small Muslim cemetery near the parking lot, broke some of the stones and pushed others over onto the ground.
Palestinians said that at least 15 gravestones were damaged.
Issa Amro, a field worker for B'tselem, said that settlers also killed a dog and left it by the mosque that abuts both Beit Hashalom and the cemetery.
Naser El-Jabry, who lives near the parking lot, said he heard noise in the middle of the night. He looked out of his window, saw what was going on and was able to go down to the street below and flag a passing Border Police vehicle.
"They told me there was nothing they could do," said El-Jabry.
Earlier in the day, he and others Palestinians who lived in the area received a visit from Hebron's mayor, who came to survey the damage, said Amro.
Now in the afternoon, as a few drops of rain splattered onto the sand, he wandered through the parking lot to show how many tires had been damaged.
One man who had slept through the incident woke in the morning to take his son to the hospital and found that he couldn't use his car, he said.
Amro said that the settlers who vandalized the cars and the tombs are known to the Palestinians, who have filmed them acting violently against them in the past. These tapes have been given to the Israel Police, he said.
The damage was not just here, he said. Settlers also threw stones at Palestinian homes both near Beit Hashalom and near the evacuated outpost.
In addition to vandalizing Palestinian property, angry settlers also caused extensive damage to the electronic security fence that surrounds Kiryat Arba and hurled stones at IDF troops stationed nearby.
According to IDF estimates, the damage caused to the electronic fence was valued at several hundred thousand shekels, and would require additional deployment of troops in the area until it was repaired.
Police have so far made no arrests, saying they have no descriptions of suspects due to the early hours in which the incidents took place.
Judea and Samaria police increased its presence around Hebron following the spate of incidents.
"We do this following every incident in which members of the settlement feel antagonized. We are keeping our ear to the ground," said Judea and Samaria Police spokesman Ch.-Supt. Danny Poleg.
One IDF officer said that more needed to be done to enforce the law against settlers.
"There is currently no effective deterrent in the West Bank since the settlers are usually not arrested or prosecuted," one officer said. "For this to change, people need to see that the law enforcement agencies work and uphold the law."
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, head of a special task force to enforce the law in the West Bank, said Sunday that the settlers involved in the violence in Hebron were a small fringe group of Jewish extremists.
"This is very worrying and cannot be allowed to continue," Vilna'i said. "We need to increase the cooperation between the different law enforcement agencies and security services to bring immediate results."
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