Sides dispute cause of Palestinian mosque fire


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The cause of a fire that heavily damaged a mosque in a Palestinian village near Nablus is under dispute.

Israeli officials say the fire early Tuesday morning at the mosque in Luban al-Sharqiya was due to an electrical short, while Palestinian officials are blaming it on settlers. Muslim holy books were burned in the blaze.

Israeli security forces on Tuesday said it was an electrical short after originally blaming the fire on "price tag" reprisal by settlers against the 10-month building freeze in Jewish West Bank communities. No graffiti or signs of vandalism were found at the site, according to reports.

Palestinian leaders have rejected the finding of an electrical problem, placing the blame on area settlers. Village residents heard a vehicle near the mosque at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Ynet reported. The fact that a stack of Korans was also burned is further proof, Palestinian sources told Ynet.

"The IDF rushed to blame settlers for setting the mosque ablaze, but from the investigation currently taking place, no signs of arson have been found, certainly not by settlers," read a statement from Binyamin Regional Council. "This constitutes slander and defamation of an entire community that requires an immediate apology."

Last month, graffiti was spray-painted on a mosque in a village near Nablus and three Palestinian vehicles were set on fire. In a second Nablus-area village, two Palestinian vehicles were torched and the words "price tag" and a Star of David were spray-painted on a village building. In December, a mosque was torched in the Yasuf village and the words "price tag" sprayed on the wall.

Meanwhile, three synagogues in Jerusalem have been set on fire in the past week. The fires appear to be deliberately set, according to reports. 

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