Palestinians protest mosque arson

Settlers allegedly vanda

protestor hurt eye 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
protestor hurt eye 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Hundreds of Palestinian protesters from the village of Yasuf gathered near the neighboring settlement of Tapuah on Friday afternoon to protest vandalism caused to a local mosque earlier that day, allegedly by settlers. The perpetrators used graffiti to write in Hebrew on the floor of the mosque, also setting fire to its library, causing damage to Islamic holy books. The demonstrators from Yasuf confronted security forces who were deployed to the area, with some rioters hurling rocks at the troops. One border policeman was lightly wounded a rock. The forces used non-lethal weapons to disperse the rioters, and six protesters were hurt in the skirmish, apparently from tear gas. According to Channel 2, the protests only died down after civil administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai personally assured Munir Abushi - the head of the Salfit governorate, where the village is located - and other Palestinian Authority leaders that security forces were doing all they could to apprehend those responsible. Following the incident, Mordechai spoke with Abushi, who expressed his dismay over repeated settler attacks, and accused Israeli security forces of doing little to protect Palestinian civilians from the settlers. Earlier on Friday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called the vandalism a "despicable crime," characterized settler behavior as "brutal" and demanded that Israel put a stop to their "wild antics." Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the attack. In a statement issued by his office, Barak said he viewed the attack with grave severity and called it "an act of extremism designed to hurt any attempt by the government to make progress" toward renewing peace talks with the Palestinians. Barak said he had instructed the defense establishment to find those responsible as quickly as possible. A flurry of responses from politicians and activists soon followed. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List - Ta'al) said after the attack that "Barak and the army bear responsibility for this crime and for the continued riot wild behavior of settlers against Palestinians." Kadima and opposition leader Tzipi Livni echoed Abbas's statement by saying that the vandalism was a "severe, despicable act of provocation" and stressing that the perpetrators must be brought to justice. "While a human rights march goes on in Tel Aviv, in Samaria extremist elements set fire to a mosque," she said during a Herzliya speech on Friday afternoon. "We must turn to introspection and contend with what is happening within Israeli society." Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines called the attack "a dangerous escalation intended to devolve the region into bloodshed." The lack of government preparedness against the "price tag" strategy which has been in use for years is a serious and dangerous failure, he added. "The fire in the Yasuf mosque may have gone out," MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) said in a statement, "but the blaze could yet get out of control, spread and lead to disastrous consequences." Peace Now called the incident "a Jewish pogrom" and warned that continued provocation by extremists could lead to a new Palestinian intifada. Danny Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said in response to the incident that he hoped police would find those responsible. "Whoever did this is not helping the settlements," Dayan said. "This is a wrong and foolish act." Meanwhile, far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir laid the blame on Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying their decision to stop construction in the West Bank was causing anger and unrest. "Netanyahu must freeze these racist edicts to calm the atmosphere," he said. MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) also stayed shy of condemning the attacks, saying that "those who wish to wipe out the Jewish people must not expect us to identify with their symbols and centers of incitement" - an apparent reference to mosques and Islamic prayer relics.