West Bank mosque burned in suspected settler attack

Residents of Ramallah-area village file complaint with civil authority; synagogue in Arab-Israeli town firebombed

Palestinians inspect a mosque that was torched in the village of al-Mughayir, in the West Bank near the Jewish settlement of Shilo, on November 12, 2014. (photo credit: STR/Flash90)
Palestinians inspect a mosque that was torched in the village of al-Mughayir, in the West Bank near the Jewish settlement of Shilo, on November 12, 2014. (photo credit: STR/Flash90)

A mosque near Ramallah was burned overnight in a possible attack by extremist Israeli settlers, Palestinian officials said Wednesday morning, while a historic synagogue in an Arab-Israeli town was attacked with a Molotov cocktail.

The first floor of the mosque in the town of al-Mughayir, near Ramallah was set on fire, causing extensive damage to the site.

“The settlers set fire to the whole of the first floor of the mosque” in the village of al-Mughayir, near the Shilo Jewish settlement, one official said.

The mayor said he had no doubt that Jewish settlers were responsible, citing a previous settler attack against another mosque in the village two years ago and frequent settler attacks against vehicles and olive groves there.

“Only Jewish settlers would do this,” al-Naasan said.

The reports, which accused settlers of committing the arson, indicated that villagers noticed fire and smoke coming from the mosque at around 3:30 a.m, according to Israel Radio.

The mayor said efforts of residents and Palestinian fire services to quell the blaze succeeded only in saving the building’s second floor.

Head of the Shomron Regional Council Gershon Mesika condemned the blaze, saying whoever set the fire was a “pyromaniac,” according to Ynet. He qualified, however, that thus far “no Jew has ever been caught setting fire to a mosque.”

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Pictures published by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency showed severely damaged carpets and walls in the mosque.

The Palestinians have filed a complaint with the West Bank’s IDF civil authority, and security forces, including the Shin Bet security service, were investigating the incident, according to Israeli news outlet Ynet.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were deployed later Wednesday near the entrance to Mughayir but that “disturbances in the area” were preventing them from opening an investigation.

Rosenfeld did not elaborate on the extent of the disturbances but attacks such as the one in Mughayir frequently ignite violent protests.

In Shfaram, an Arab town in northern Israel, a synagogue dating from the mid-18th century was attacked with a Molotov cocktail, causing light damage but no injuries, Israel Radio reported.

The synagogue was renovated last May in an effort to show interfaith understanding.

The attacks come on the heels of several suspected “price tag” hate crimes on Tuesday, a day after two separate terrorist attacks on Israelis in Tel Aviv and the West Bank left two dead.

Jerusalem residents reported Tuesday morning that vandals had damaged several cars and spray-painted “No Arabs, no cars” on the sidewalk nearby in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

The graffiti was in reference to several recent attacks in which Palestinian drivers plowed their vehicles into crowds of people.

Anger has spread among Israelis in the wake of a spike in terror attacks over the last several weeks, including two separate stabbing incidents on Monday.

A protest late Monday night against the spate of attacks turned violent, with demonstrators blocking a road at in central Jerusalem, and an Arab taxi driver being attacked by rock throwers.

Police said Tuesday they had arrested four 13-year-old boys who admitted to throwing the rocks at the taxi driver.

The protesters, who seemed to number a dozen or so people as seen in a video of the incident, staged an impromptu demonstration calling for government action after IDF soldier Almog Shiloni and 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus were killed in separate terror attacks during the day.

Chants such as “No Arabs, no terror attacks!” were heard and protesters carried signs with anti-Arab slogans.

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