Firefighters call mosque fire arson


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli firefighters said that a fire in a West Bank mosque appears to be arson; extremist Jews are suspected.

The investigators ruled out an electrical short as the cause of the early Tuesday fire that gutted the mosque and burned Muslim holy books in the Palestinian village of Luban al-Sharqiya, located near Nablus, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Police reportedly have launched an investigation.

Israeli security forces on Tuesday said the fire was caused by 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. There was evidence of a break in, however, Haaretz reported.

Palestinian leaders 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.

Graffiti was spray-painted last month 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.

Haaretz reported Wednesday that Israel’s defense establishment learned of plans by settler extremists to vandalize mosques to protest the destructions of outposts. 

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