Unknown individuals set fire to a mosque Monday overnight in the city of al-Bira, near Ramallah, and spray-painted Hebrew graffiti on its walls. According to Palestinian reports, the arsonists are settlers, and no injuries were reported.
The graffiti on the walls of the mosque read "siege for Arabs and not Jews" and "the land of Israel is for the people of Israel."
Azzam al-Qaraan, the mayor of al-Bira, said in a conversation with Haaretz that the mosque, located at the edge of the city, is only hundreds of meters away from the nearby settlement, and the suspicion is that whoever is responsible came from there.
According to Al-Qaraan the incident took place around 3 A.M. and the arson attempt happened in the back of the mosque in the bathrooms. The mosque suffered damage, even after neighbors noticed the fire and tried to put it out until firefighters arrived.
According to the mayor, this is the first time such an incident happened in the city, and Palestinian police forces have begun an investigation including collecting camera footage from the area in an attempt to locate documentation of the incident.
Tag Meir, an organization that works against settler hate crimes, widely known as "price tag" attacks, said in response that the settlers "continue to spread destruction and devastation in the week in which the Jewish people mark Tisha B'Av."
Earlier this month, thirteen vehicles were vandalized in the Palestinian village of Lubban al-Sharqiya near Nablus in the northern West Bank. Graffiti with a Star of David were spray painted on a bus.
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B’Tselem says 30 physical attacks, incidents of vandalism and driving away of Palestinian farmers by settlers occurred in the West Bank in June. In May, the organization documented 16 such incidents, and 29 in April. This represents an increase; there were 11 documented cases in January.
Earlier this year in a similar incident, a fire broke out in a mosque in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and graffiti was sprayed on the walls of the building. No one was hurt as a result of the incident, but the mosque was damaged.
One of the slogans sprayed on the walls names the illegal outpost of "Kumi Ori" outside of the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank. Settlers at the outpost have been involved in several violent altercations with Israeli forces, including throwing stones, and have committed a number of hate crimes in Arab villages throughout the West Bank.
Hagar Shezaf contributed to this report.