Settlers Blamed For Mosque Blaze

Israeli settlers are reported to have set fire to a mosque in the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank, damaging the prayer rug and a large number of copies of the Quran, as well as spraying anti-Arab graffiti on the walls. According to witnesses, five settlers broke into a mosque in Beit Fajjar in the early hours of Monday and set it alight before the morning prayers, Ahmad Thawabteh, the town's mayor, told Al Jazeera. Khaled Zighari, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem producer, said quoting Israeli sources that police would go to the mosque to investigate the incident in Beit Fajjar, just south of Bethlehem. "Certainly this is something that is ratcheting up tensions at a time when the Israeli cabinet are meeting to decide on extending the settlement freeze," Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reported from Jerusalem. "A mosque was burned in the West Bank earlier this year by settlers who say it was on their land - land that they claim and occupy." "There is certainly a pattern here. There will be a settler demonstration north of the West Bank today which is also linked to a mosque that the settlers want destroyed."

Settlers Blamed For Mosque Blaze

Israeli settlers are reported to have set fire to a mosque in the occupied Palestinian territory of West Bank, damaging the prayer rug and a large number of copies of the Quran, as well as spraying anti-Arab graffiti on the walls.

According to witnesses, five settlers broke into a mosque in Beit Fajjar in the early hours of Monday and set it alight before the morning prayers, Ahmad Thawabteh, the town's mayor, told Al Jazeera.

Khaled Zighari, Al Jazeera's Jerusalem producer, said quoting Israeli sources that police would go to the mosque to investigate the incident in Beit Fajjar, just south of Bethlehem.

"Certainly this is something that is ratcheting up tensions at a time when the Israeli cabinet are meeting to decide on extending the settlement freeze," Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reported from Jerusalem.

"A mosque was burned in the West Bank earlier this year by settlers who say it was on their land - land that they claim and occupy."

"There is certainly a pattern here. There will be a settler demonstration north of the West Bank today which is also linked to a mosque that the settlers want destroyed."

Vandals occasionally spray-paint the words "price tag" on buildings and cars, suggesting that the attacks are the "price" for any attempt by the Israeli government to curb the growth of illegal settlements.

Human-rights groups say the Israeli government does not take the attacks seriously enough.

A report by Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, found that "impunity remains the norm" for settlers accused of vandalism and physical attacks on Palestinians.

The incident in Beit Fajjar comes as Israeli and Palestinian officials prepare to resume indirect negotiations.

Palestinian leaders are pushing for a complete freeze in new Israeli construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Binjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, approved last year a temporary halt in West Bank settlement growth - but it does not apply to East Jerusalem.

Many communities in the West Bank have ignored the order and continued new construction.

source: aljazeera