Vandals leave burning tire at West Bank mosque

December 7, 2011 - 7:40 AM

BRUKIN, West Bank (AP) — Arsonists left a burning tire at the entrance of a Palestinian mosque in the northern West Bank early Wednesday, residents and Israeli police said, the latest in a string of recent assaults on Muslim and Christian holy sites.

The attack blackened the mosque's entrance, where worshippers leave their shoes before entering. No one was seen carrying out the attack in the village of Brukin, but suspicion fell on Jewish settlers, who are thought to have carried out similar acts of vandalism in the past.

"We hope there won't be more attacks, but we expect there will be. We've had continuous problems with the settlers around us," said the Palestinian mayor, Akrima Samara.

Mahmoud Habbash, a Palestinian Islamic leader, said some 10 mosques were attacked or torched in the past three years in the West Bank. At least one other mosque and a Muslim graveyard were desecrated inside Israel this year.

Young Jewish extremists have adopted a practice, called "price tag," of attacking Palestinian targets in retaliation for Israeli government policies they deem too sympathetic to Palestinians. The mosque burnings, in particular, threaten to inflame already poor relations between Jews and Arabs.

Israeli police said they were investigating the incident.

But few complaints about anti-Palestinian violence result in prosecution, according to figures released Wednesday by an Israeli human rights group.

In related news, an Israeli rights group said military police issued indictments in connection with only 6 percent of all investigated complaints Palestinians made against Israeli forces in the West Bank from 2000 to 2010.

The Tel Aviv-based rights group Yesh Din said military police investigated 61 percent of the 3,150 complaints that Palestinians filed. The rest were closed without an investigation, Yesh Din said in a report.

Some complaints were lost while others took months, if not years, to investigate, making it difficult to gather evidence, the report said. And Palestinians did not have easy access to the military to file complaints, the report added.

The conclusions "reflect a lack of concern, a lack of priority," said Emily Shaefer, a lawyer with Yesh Din.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the military was looking into the allegations.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian militant was killed and two others were wounded in an Israeli airstrike early Wednesday on the Gaza Strip. The burst of violence shattered a recent lull and threatened to set off more fighting.

The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted two militant squads preparing to fire rockets into southern Israel.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said the violence erupted after Israeli troops moved into a buffer zone east of Gaza City. Palestinian militants then engaged the troops in a gunbattle before an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the gunmen.

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Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak contributed to this report from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.