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Mosque torched in West Bank

Palestinians and members of the media survey the damage to a mosque in West Bank village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah on June 7. (MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Arsonists believed to be Jewish settlers set fire to a mosque in the West Bank on Tuesday, the latest of a series of such attacks in recent years.

An Israeli police spokesman said a tire was set ablaze inside a mosque in the village of Mughayir, near Ramallah, in an attempt to burn the building. Worshipers who arrived for morning prayers discovered scorched prayer carpets and Hebrew graffiti scrawled on a wall.

The graffiti said, “price tag,” a reference to a practice by militant settlers who attack Palestinians and their property in response to moves by the Israeli authorities to take down unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank.

The scrawled message was signed, “Alei Ayin,” the name of a rogue outpost in the area where Israeli security forces demolished illegally built structures last week, setting off stone-throwing clashes with settlers, who firebombed a police car.

The police spokesman said an investigation into the mosque blaze was underway but that no arrests had been made. There have been four arson attacks on mosques in the West Bank in recent years, and while suspects have been held, none are known to have been prosecuted.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank accused Israel of failing to seriously investigate the mosque fires and prosecute those responsible, thus granting settlers “impunity to continue their attacks.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Tuesday’s arson attempt “a criminal act,” and the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he had ordered security forces to act “with all means at their disposal to catch the perpetrators.”

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement that the United States strongly condemned the attack. “All sides must do all they can to prevent attacks and incitement of this kind,” he said. He also noted the Israeli government’s condemnation and call for accountability.

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