West Bank mosque torched in settler attack

Tue, Sep 6, 2011, 01:00

A WEST Bank mosque was set on fire yesterday in what appeared to be a revenge attack by settlers just hours after Israeli security forces destroyed buildings at an illegal settler outpost.

Worshippers arriving for morning prayers in the Palestinian village of Qusra, south of Nablus, found the mosque on fire.

Slogans in Hebrew sprayed on the walls read “Muhammad is a Pig” and “Alai Ayin and Migron – social justice”, linking the names of two settler outposts with the slogan used by Israeli demonstrators in recent mass protests for economic reform. Only hours earlier hundreds of Israeli police had dismantled three buildings in a massive operation at Migron, the biggest illegal outpost in the West Bank.

No one claimed responsibility but it is believed that militant Jewish settlers carried out the mosque attack. Residents claimed that settlers had also attacked the village in the past.

A few years ago extremist fringe elements amongst the settlers, dubbed the “hilltop youth”, announced a “price tag” policy, whereby Palestinians and Palestinian property would be targeted in response to every move by the Israeli authorities to dismantle settler buildings. Militant settlers have set up more than 100 illegal outposts on hilltops across the West Bank, which, unlike the veteran settlements, were not authorised by the Israeli government. The international community considers all Jewish communities in the West Bank illegal.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad denounced the mosque attack as an act of terrorism. “These acts are what threaten to pull the region into a cycle of violence,” Fayyad’s office said in a statement, adding that the Palestinians themselves would not revert to violence.

Tension was high in the West Bank ahead of the vote at the United Nations later this month to endorse Palestinian statehood.

Some 200 settlers tried to prevent the destruction of the three buildings in Migron and six people were arrested during the clashes. The operation was briefly held up by a court injunction before the supreme court gave the green light for the demolition.

According to an earlier court ruling all Migron buildings have to be dismantled by March 2012.

Right-wing politicians, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, condemned the demolition. Likud Knesset member Yariv Levin called it a “cowardly, anti-Zionist action”.