Mosque in West Bank Village Set Alight in Suspected 'Price Tag' Attack

Unidentified vandals set fire to a Palestinian mosque, spray-paint graffiti on its walls; IDF: Attack could undermine security in the area.

A mosque in the West Bank village of Jab'a, located south of Ramallah, was set on fire in a suspected "price tag" arson attack early Tuesday morning.

Graffiti carrying messages such as "The war has begun" and "You will pay the price" was spray-painted on the mosque's walls.

Shin Bet agents and police, accompanied by a heavy contingent of IDF soldiers, were combing the area for clues and interrogating witnesses in the village on Tuesday morning.

The mosque appears to have been attacked around 1:30 A.M. While none of the villagers saw the arsonists, they noticed the fire following the attack and hurried to extinguish it.

According to villagers, while the incident was immediately reported to the IDF, the army only arrived on the scene around 6 A.M.

Jab'a is located near Highway 60, a central traffic artery in the West Bank, but the access road to the village is blocked by large dirt mounds. Police are still investigating whether the attackers arrived by car or on foot.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the attack on Tuesday morning, calling it "a grave and criminal act, meant to harm the fabric of life in the area and distract the IDF and the security forces from their missions, which include protecting Israeli citizens in the area."

Barak added that he had instructed the IDF and Israel's security forces to use "all means" to find the perpetrators of the attack and bring them to justice.    

The IDF said it views the incident gravely and that it could undermine the stability of security in the area.

"Price tag" attacks are generally carried out by West Bank settlers and their supporters against Palestinian targets, often in retaliation for moves against settlements.

Tuesday morning's attack followed an extensive drill by Israel Police on Monday, held in preparation for the expected evacuation of the Ulpana Hill neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

Earlier this month, vandals carried out similar actions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Shuafat, as well as in the Jewish-Arab village of Neveh Shalom.

Also in early June, a number of Middle East experts warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that continued settlement construction or the burning of a major mosque by Jewish extremists could ignite a third intifada in the West Bank.

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A man outside the mosque in Jab'a on June 19, 2012. The graffiti reads "Ulpana war."
Iyad Haddad, B'tselem
The interior of the mosque in Jab'a after the attack, June 19, 2012.
Iyad Haddad, B'tselem