Mosque torched near Bethlehem in apparent hate crime
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Mosque torched near Bethlehem in apparent hate crime

Anti-Arab graffiti sprayed on walls of building; worshipers arriving for prayers put out the fire

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Imam Ibrahim Abu Luha shows the damage at a mosque that was torched overnight in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)
Palestinian Imam Ibrahim Abu Luha shows the damage at a mosque that was torched overnight in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)

A mosque in a village near Bethlehem was set alight early Wednesday morning and anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed on its walls, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Worshipers arriving for prayers at the mosque in Jab’a, which lies to the west of Bethlehem, discovered the fire and quickly put it out. The carpeting inside and the walls of the building were damaged but there were no reports of injuries.

Eyewitnesses said the offensive graffiti, written in Hebrew, called for revenge attacks against Arabs and Muslims.

Local Palestinians believe the arson attack was the work of Jewish settlers.

Right-wing extremists have in the past carried out numerous arson and graffiti attacks on Arab property in the West Bank and also Jerusalem under the “price tag” slogan.

An Israeli soldier stands guard outside a mosque that was torched overnight with anti-Arab slogans in Hebrew sprayed on its walls, in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)
An Israeli soldier stands guard outside a mosque that was torched overnight with anti-Arab slogans in Hebrew sprayed on its walls, in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)

However, the phrase “price tag” did not appear to have been used in the graffiti sprayed on the walls of the targeted mosque.

Earlier this month a West Bank settler was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of a racially motivated arson attack in a West Bank village in 2013.

The Lod District Court ruled the incident a “price tag” hate crime and additionally sentenced Binyamin Richter to 12 months probation and ordered him to pay NIS 15,000 ($3,900) as compensation to the owners of the property that was damaged in the attack.

Palestinian Imam Ibrahim Abu Luha shows a burnt Koran, Islam's holy book, after a mosque was torched overnight in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015 .(photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)
Palestinian Imam Ibrahim Abu Luha shows a burnt Koran, Islam’s holy book, after a mosque was torched overnight in the West Bank village of al-Jaba, southwest of Bethlehem, February 25, 2015 .(photo credit: AFP/MUSA AL-SHAER)

Last month, over a dozen members of the extremist group Lehava were arrested in connection with a price tag arson attack on a bilingual Arabic-Hebrew school in November.

While attacks targeting Palestinian property and holy sites are roundly condemned by Israeli politicians and religious leaders, security officials have often struggled to bring suspected perpetrators to trial.

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