Mosque torched near Hebron
Palestinian sources report of prayer house desecration in West Bank village of Beit Fajar. Graffiti blaspheming Mohammad found on Mosque walls; arson investigation launched
Ali Waked • Ynet
Settlers' "price tag" policy strikes again? A mosque at the Palestinian village of Beit Fajar, north of the West Bank city of Hebron, was set on fire Monday and according to Palestinian sources, graffiti blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad was sprayed on several of the building's walls.
The police are investigating reports by Palestinians that settlers arrived at the mosque and set several Koran books on fire, as well as a prayer rug. According to the sources, the building sustained serious damage.
The graffiti, added to Palestinians, featured slogans against Arabs, Muslims and Muhammad. Slogans such as "revenge" and "price tag" were also sprayed on the mosque walls alongside an Israeli flag.
Several of the village's residents reportedly scuffled with the perpetrators.
A joint investigation of the IDF and the Palestinians has been launched and police and military forces are gearing to enter the village in order to investigate further. There are no suspects in the case at this time.
Contrary to Palestinian claims, the Civil Administration said that the incident was carried out in the middle of the night and that no clash broke out on the site. A Shai District Police spokesperson reported that large police and military forces arrived at the site along with a forensics team.
Civil Administration head Yoav Mordechai sent conciliatory messages to the Palestinian leadership in hopes to maintain the calm.
Village Committee Head Ali Sawabta told Ynet that from testimonies taken so far, six settlers raided the mosque at around 2:40 am. "They set fire to the mosque, and it took out the building's electrical grid. Fifteen Koran book have been burnt and the building is drenched in smoke. It is effectively out of commission.
"This is the first time settlers have vandalized the village's mosque," he added.
Extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel said that " I will not be surprised to learn that, while the Israeli government demonstrates helplessness and abandons the settlers to their fate, some Jew take matters into their own hands. The government must understand that Jewish blood is just as precious."
Other prominent elements in the radical right echoed the sentiment, adding that "The overall feeling over the past few months is of abandonment… There is a feeling that Netanyahu and Barak don't really care.
"As long as this continues it is very likely that such incidents will reoccur. The Israeli government makes the public think that no one in concerned with security. It creates a void for all sorts of elements to fill."
Shaul Goldstein Head of Gush Etzion Regional Council denounced the act, saying that "past experience has shown that it is not necessarily Jews how are behind such act. Nevertheless, we denounced this criminal action."
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said, "The burning of the mosque is a Jewish pogrom that has become a norm. The settler leaders have lost control over the field, and a violent, dangerous generation that acts of hatred and racism is growing up under their tutelage. The police must make a broad wave of arrests against the Jewish terrorist activists."
The IDF Spokesman's Unit released a statement following the mosque torching north of the West Bank city of Hebron, saying Civil Administration Head Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai personally called his colleagues in the Palestinian Authority and assured them that the IDF and security forces are working to locate the vandals. "We see this as a grave event," said the statement.
Yair Altman contributed to this report.