At least 14 houses belonging to Christian residents of Taybeh, a West Bank village northeast of Ramallah, were torched by Muslims from neighboring Dir Jarir on Sunday, to avenge what they termed the dishonor of a Muslim woman.

According to Taybeh residents, several dozen young men from Dir Jarir descended on their village before dawn, torched the homes and destroyed a great deal of other property.

"The young men, who were holding Molotov cocktails, threw them at the houses, which began to go up in flames, one after another," said Buthaina Sha'aban, a Taybeh resident and the sister of the town's mayor. "They vandalized parked cars and beat village residents who went out into the streets. Entire families were thrown into the street after their homes were torched. Not much remains of their property. We urge all international, Israeli and Palestinian actors to intervene and protect village residents from the Muslim rage."

The attackers also torched stores, a farm and a gas station. The latter fire was put out before fuel tanks exploded. Palestinian Authority policemen who arrived on the scene also managed to save the village's famous beer factory.

The two villages are located in Area B, meaning that they are under Israel security control. Access to the villages from Area A, where the PA police is located, is only possible by going through Area C, under full Israeli control. Residents said that several hours passed until the Israel Defense Forces agreed to allow the PA police to leave Ramallah and enter the village to stop the rampage.

Later, the Palestinian governor of the Ramallah area visited the scene to try to soothe tempers, as did several senior Christian clerics. Most Taybeh residents are either Catholic or Greek Orthodox.

PA security sources said that the rampage was triggered by an incident last week in which a 23-year-old woman was killed by her relatives because they suspected her of carrying on a romance with a Christian man from Taybeh. The woman was quickly buried, but last Tuesday, the PA police exhumed the body for an autopsy.