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Israeli settlers suspected of torching West Bank mosque

A mosque is set on fire in the Palestinian village of Jaba; suspected settlers leave racist remarks on walls, says witness

Reuters , Tuesday 19 Jun 2012
Palestine
An Israeli firefighter walks out of a vandalised mosque in Jerusalem in December 2011. Slogans read: "A good Arab is a dead Arab" and "price tag" were spray-painted on the exterior walls of the building, (Photo: Reuters).
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A mosque in the village of Jaba in the occupied West Bank was vandalised and set on fire early on Tuesday, in an attack Palestinians blamed on Israeli settlers.

Scrawled on the outside walls in Hebrew were the words "Ulpana War", referring to the Ulpana hill in a West Bank settlement where the Israeli government is preparing to remove five disputed apartment buildings.

Around three metres of the mosque's interior wall and carpeting were scorched.

"At one o'clock we heard screaming from the people of the village and realised the mosque was on fire. More than three hundred people awoke and we managed to put it out," said mayor Abdul Karim Sharaf.

"After that we saw the writing, racist writing," he said. "This is great injustice clear to the world."

An Israeli police spokesman said investigators had arrived on the scene and were "looking into the possibility that it was a 'Price Tag' attack" -- referring to retribution settlers say they will exact for any attempt by the Israeli government to curb Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, calling the assailants "intolerant and irresponsible lawbreakers" and said they would be brought to justice.

The mosque vandalism came as a July 1 deadline approaches for Netanyahu's government, in accordance with a court ruling, to tear down the Ulpana buildings, home to about 30 families in the Beit El settlement.

Palestinians fear Israeli settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, will deny them a viable state. The settlements are deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice.

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