State Department condemns vandalism of West Bank mosque


The United States condemned the vandalizing of a mosque in the northern West Bank.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s most recent vandalizing of a mosque, as well as the burning of three cars, in the West Bank village of Dir Istiya. Hateful, dangerous, and provocative actions such as these are never justified,”  the State Department said in a statement released late Wednesday.

The words “price tag” and “Gal Arye Yosef” were spray-painted on the wall of the mosque in the village of Dir Istiya, near Ariel, in the early Wednesday morning attack. The graffiti refers to an illegal outpost that was razed the previous day.

The State Department statement noted that the Israeli government “pledged to capture those responsible for these reprehensible attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice” and called on the local authorities to “work together with the community to reduce tension and to defend religious freedom.”

“We again call for calm on the part of all parties and urge them to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence. Violence only serves to impede the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on acceptance and respect,” the statement said.

An attempt to attack the mosque was carried out last September.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly condemned the attack and commanded the Israel Defense Forces and officials in the defense establishment to “act resolutely, purposefully and to use all the means at their disposal to capture the lawless rioters and bring them to justice,” according to a statement issued from the Ministry of Defense.

“Such acts prevent the IDF from carrying out its primary missions, including the basic protection of the region’s residents,” Barak said. “These activities are designed to damage the fragile relationship between Israelis and Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria region, as well as between Israel and its neighbors. The IDF, in cooperation with the police and security personnel, will act robustly against these criminal activities.”

Jerusalem mosque torched as rightists clash with police


Israeli right-wing activists clashed with police in Jerusalem, after a mosque in the capital city was targeted by arsonists.

The torching of the mosque on Wednesday morning followed a series of other so-called price tag attacks in the West Bank in reaction to the possible evacuation of illegal outposts.

The Nebi Akasha mosque, built in the 12th century and not in use for several years, was set alight and the words “price tag,” as well as “Mohammed is dead” and “A good Arab is a dead Arab,” were spray painted on and around the site.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers and their supporters have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

On Tuesday night, two trucks and a car were set alight in a Palestinian village near Nablus. A Jewish woman was also arrested in connection with rocks thrown at Palestinian cars in the northern West Bank. The incidents reportedly were triggered by the movement of an Israel Defense Forces convoy, which sparked concern that it was on the way to dismantle the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost, scheduled to be razed by the end of the calendar year, according to Haaretz.

When police in Jerusalem attempted to arrest suspects Wednesday in connection with recent price tag attacks, activists began clashing with officers and rioting, including slashing tires and breaking the windows of several police cars, Haaretz reported.

Also on Wednesday, a special meeting convened by Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed recent acts of violence by extremist settlers, and decided to recommend to Netanyahu that acts of violence by right-wing activists be called terror acts and the perpetrators terrorists.

Arab restaurant torched in Jaffa


An Arab-owned restaurant in Jaffa was torched and graffiti pointing to a price-tag attack was spray-painted on its walls.

The Abu al-Abed restaurant, which has been in existence since 1949, was set ablaze early Monday morning. It serves Palestinian and Lebanese food.

The words “price tag” and “Kahane was right” were spray-painted on the building. The latter invective refers to the late Kach leader Meir Kahane, who advocated the transfer of Arabs out of Israel. Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Police investigating the incident told Ynet that they are not ready to say it was politically motivated.

In recent weeks, incidents labeled as price tag include the cutting down of 20 olive trees belonging to an Arab family in eastern Jerusalem, the desecration of two cemeteries in Jaffa and the torching of a mosque in a Bedouin town in northern Israel.

Also Sunday, the tomb of Elazar Hakohen, the son of Aaron, was discovered desecrated. The tomb, which is located near the West Bank village of Hawarta and is a popular destination for Jewish worshipers, was painted with graffiti including drawings of rocket launchers, and the headstone was shattered.

Meanwhile, Israeli police and soldiers on Sunday demolished four structures under construction in an outpost near the Bat Ayin settlement in Gush Etzion.