Hebrew graffiti reading “The war has just begun” and “You will pay the price” was found spray painted on a burnt mosque in the Palestinian village of Jaba, near Ramallah in the Binyamin region of the West Bank, Tuesday morning.
Police and Shin Bet have launched an investigation and suspect right-wing extremists are behind the act. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned it.
The incident carries the characteristics of a “price tag” attack, in which right-wing radicals commit acts against the Palestinian population as “punishment” for government decisions they perceive as being against the settlers.
Earlier this month, the Knesset voted against a bill that would have effectively prevented the demolition of illegally constructed buildings in the Givat Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El by the first of July. The move sparked harsh criticism by the right-wing, leading to numerous protests, disturbances of the peace and threats of “price tag” retaliation.
Since then, several suspected “price tag” incidents have been perpetrated, including slashing of tires and spray painting of slogans on vehicles belonging to residents of the joint Jewish-Arab community of Neve Shalom.
Netanyahu condemned the latest attack on Tuesday morning, calling it “an irresponsible act of lawlessness and intolerance,” and pledged to “act swiftly to bring the culprits to justice.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday’s incident diverted the IDF’s attention from its main mission of protecting Israeli citizens in the region. “I gave an order to the IDF and to the other security agencies to act with all the means at their disposal to capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” said Barak.
Yesha settlers council head Danny Dayan also denounced the attack on the mosque, saying that anyone who took part in “price tag” attacks is “both a criminal and a fool.” Dayan said that such incidents harm the settler cause and called out against those in the settlement movement who failed to condemn the acts.
Former Shin Bet deputy director MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) told Israel Radio that the attack was likely perpetrated by youths acting independently and not by people being directed by a central authority.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson said that Netanyahu’s condemnation is insufficient and that Israel must arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice. The spokesman said the Israeli government is responsible for such attacks and the fact that they continue shows Israel is not serious about maintain security in the region.
The Palestinian Authority’s deputy governor of the Jerusalem District, Sheik Abdullah Siam said that the incident angered local residents and muslims the world over. “This is an attack on our religion and against the house of God,” said Siam.
Peace Now said the government was ultimately responsible for the act because of its “groveling” before settler leaders. In a statement, the group said, “The proper response to extremism is to enact the High Court’s decision [to evacuate the Ulpana neighborhood] on time, with no deferral or special benefits to the settlers.”
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