West Bank Mosque Torched in Suspected Settler Attack

Eyewitnesses said Israeli settlers arrived at the Nablus-area mosque after midnight and carried out attack.

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Vandals torched a mosque in the West Bank village of Aqraba early Tuesday morning, causing light damage to the structure.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli settlers arrived at the Abu Bakr mosque compound after midnight, spray-painted graffiti using the words "price tag" and "Kahane" (referring to the late, ultra-right-wing Meir Kahane), then poured gasoline on the first floor of the mosque and set it on fire. That part of the mosque serves as the women's prayer area.

In addition to the destruction from the fire, the mosque's windows were shattered and its door was also damaged.

Ghassan Douglas, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said some of the village residents had chased after the settlers, but they fled. Many residents arrived at the mosque to help extinguish the flames before they could spread to the rest of the structure.

As of Tuesday morning, Israeli police and army officials had yet to arrive at the mosque to gather evidence.

Douglas said Tuesday's incident is part of a long line of settler attacks, driven by racism and hatred, against Palestinian property and houses of worship. He added that such attacks could spark violence and prevent a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Aqraba is situated in the Nablus district of the Palestinian Authority, not far from the Israeli settlement of Tapuah. There have been a number of confrontations between Palestinians and Tapuah settlers in the last two weeks.

Two settlers were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of attacking Palestinians.

Palestinian olive trees in the area have also been uprooted and graffiti scrawled nearby that referred to a West Bank settler who was indicted for torching a Palestinian-owned car.

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