Tomb of Palestinian national hero vandalized near Haifa

(JTA) — The tomb of a Palestinian national hero was vandalized in a suspected “price tag” attack near Haifa.

The vandalism against the grave of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Muslim preacher who provided inspiration for Hamas’ military wing, was discovered Friday morning in the city of Nesher, Army Radio reported.

The perpetrators spray-painted the words “price tag – Tzipi Livni” on the tombstone, according to the report, in reference to Israel’s justice minister, who is also heading negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Another tomb was spray-painted with the words “thanks for Memorial Day John Kerry,” in reference to the United States’ secretary of state.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, whose full name was Izz ad-Din Abd al-Qadar ibn Mustafa ibn Yusuf ibn Muhammad al-Qassam, is revered by many Palestinians for his tough stance against the British and Jews during the 1930s. He died in 1935 in a clash with British soldiers when they still ruled modern-day Israel under the British Mandate.

Nesher Mayor Avi Binmo headed to the Muslim cemetery where Izz ad-Din al-Qassam is buried as soon as he heard about the vandalism, Army Radio reported. A few dozen Muslim men were present and  threatened to riot, the radio station reported. The slogans were removed.

Israel has seen an increase in suspected price tag attacks, which police said were mostly the work of right-wing radicals seeking to intimidate Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank with warnings of revenge for violence or moves that go against what the radicals perceive as their interests. Some price tag attacks were directed at Israeli troops.

The U.S. State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, which was released on Wednesday, said that “attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted.”

Israeli police refuted the report’s claims and argued that nationalist “price tag” attacks could not be considered acts of terrorism.

“There’s no comparison whatsoever between criminal incidents with nationalistic motives and terrorist-related incidents,” Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Israeli media.

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