Another Palestinian mosque torched in West Bank

December 15, 2011 - 4:30 AM
Mideast Israel Palestinians

The minaret of a vandalized mosque in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. Unknown arsonists torched an inactive Jerusalem mosque early Wednesday, provoking calls in Israel for a more effective crackdown on Jewish extremists suspected in a string of increasingly brazen acts of violence, that in recent months have expanded from the West Bank into Israel proper. Also Wednesday, cars in two West Bank villages were torched by Jewish extremists, Palestinian witnesses say. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Vandals set fire to another mosque in the West Bank on Thursday and defaced it with Hebrew graffiti. Suspicion fell on Jewish extremists widely assumed to be behind stepped-up violence against Palestinians and the Israeli military.

The governor of Ramallah, Laila Ghanam, said arsonists doused the mosque in the village of Burqa with gasoline, then set it afire.

The Hebrew words for "war" and "the Yitzhar group," a reference to a radical Jewish settlement, were painted in red on a wall, and the Israeli military said carpets and chairs were burned.

In recent years, settlers have attacked Palestinian and Israeli military targets in retaliation for Israeli government operations they see as overly sympathetic to Palestinians.

Early Thursday, Israeli security forces demolished two structures in an unauthorized Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank called Mizpe Yitzhar.

The increasing frequency of the attacks, the sparse number of arrests and paucity of indictments have generated allegations that the Israeli government isn't acting forcefully enough against extremists after two years of violence.

On Wednesday, following an assault on an Israeli military base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved measures to clamp down on extremists, including giving soldiers the authority to make arrests and to ban extremists from contentious areas.