A West Bank mosque was vandalized and portions were torched on Monday, according to officials.
Witnesses saw four people burn the carpets and 20 copies of the Quran in the building about 3:30 a.m. Authorities are investigating to determine if Israeli settlers are to blame for the acts.
In addition to the burned Qurans and carpet, tiles were broken off of pillars, and graffiti spray painted inside the building. Phrases such as “revenge and avenge”, “This is toilet number 18”, and “price tag” were painted on the walls, in Hebrew.
The “price tag” graffiti is a reference to an apparently loosely organized “Operation Price Tag”. Wikipedia describes Operation Price Tag as “… a coordinated tactic adapted by the Israeli settlers movement of attacking Palestinian property in retaliation for attempts by the Israeli government efforts to remove illegal West Bank outposts.”
The smoke and fire was noticed by a Palestinian woman who lives across from the mosque. She and others threw buckets of water onto the flames in an attempt to stop the fire.
Ghassan Khattib, director of the Palestinian government media center, said that the Palestinian government condemned the attack and held the Israeli government responsible for its failure to prevent the settler violence.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, also condemned the attack, and has ordered the security department to find and prosecute the criminals who perpetrated the acts as soon as possible.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement which read in part: “Whoever did this is a terrorist in every sense of the word, and intended to hurt the chances for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians. This was a shameful act that besmirched the State of Israel and its value.”
This is not the first attack on a mosque that has been blamed on Israeli settlers. Earlier this year, a mosque was damaged in the northern West Bank, and that was linked to settlers as well.