US and UN condemn burning of West Bank mosque

UN envoy: Act is "threatening", Israel responsible for protecting Palestinian sites; US: Mosque vandalism undermines comprehensive peace.

Price Tag Mosque 311 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Price Tag Mosque 311
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The US State Department on Tuesday condemned the burning of a Mosque in the West Bank village of al-Muayar located near Ramallah earlier in the day. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement, "The United States condemns the burning and vandalizing of a mosque," noting that the attack, was "the latest of several such acts of violence against West Bank mosques."
Toner added that such incidents serve "to undermine efforts to promote a comprehensive peace in the region," and called on Israel to investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.
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Earlier Tuesday, the White House also issued a condemnation. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "As we have long maintained, all sides must do all they can to prevent attacks and incitement of this kind."
"We note the Israeli government's condemnation of this attack and call for the perpetrators to be held accountable," Vietor added in a statement.
The United Nations also condemned the desecration of the mosque.
"The actions of Israeli extremists are highly provocative and threatening," Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement.
"Consistent with its obligations under international law as the occupying power, the Israeli government must ensure accountability of those responsible and protect the human rights of Palestinians and their property, including religious sites."
Palestinians in the village of al-Muayar have charged that settlers entered the mosque just before dawn, climbed through a window and set fire to the carpet in the structure, which was built just two years ago.
On Tuesday morning village residents showed journalists, including from The Jerusalem Post, three large burnt out areas, where the flames had destroyed the carpet completely.
The smell of smoke still hung in the air as they surveyed the damage inside, which was limited to the carpet and floor. On the mosque’s outer stone wall the vandals had spray painted four words, which led the Palestinians to believe that settlers had damaged their house of prayer.
In large letters the vandals had written, “Price Tag,” a phrase which is used by right wing extremists and settlers to describe their policy of perpetrating acts of vengeance against Palestinians to protest against IDF actions against West Bank Jewish residents.
In smaller letters the vandals had written the name of a small outpost, Alei Ayin, which the IDF had destroyed last week.
Tovah Lazaroff, Yaakov Lappin and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.