West Bank mosque set alight following outpost razing


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A mosque in the West Bank was set alight hours after Israeli soldiers demolished two structures in an illegal outpost. 

The interior of a mosque in a village near Ramallah was torched Thursday morning after being soaked with gasoline. The words "war" and "Mitzpe Yitzhar," the outpost that was razed early Thursday morning, were painted on the mosque.

The attack comes a day after a historic, unused mosque in Jerusalem was set on fire, damaging its exterior, and Palestinian vehicles were torched in the West Bank. Right-wing extremists have been blamed for the attacks. 

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the mosque attack near Ramallah a declaration of war by the settlers against the Palestinian people. He placed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli government and called on the international community to get involved.

The attack came hours after hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police dismantled two buildings, one residential, in the illegal West Bank outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar, in which five families live. There was little resistance since the area around the outpost was declared a closed military zone, preventing dozens of right-wing activists from entering the site.

On Tuesday night, settlers and right-wing activists vandalized a West Bank Israel Defense Forces base, injuring an officer, and threw stones at Palestinian cars after IDF forces in the area mobilized in what settlers thought was an effort to raze a West Bank outpost.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, five people arrested the previous day on suspicion of involvement in price tag attacks against Palestinian property were ordered held for another 24 hours by the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court. Their arrest led to clashes between right-wing activists and police in Jerusalem.

Also Thursday, during a meeting with settlement leaders and rabbis, Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized the attacks against Palestinians and the IDF.

"There is no room for criminality, violation of the law and riotousness. It’s horrible to see our sons and daughters enter IDF bases and nearly kill an officer," he reportedly said.

Peres called the settlers actions "adding fuel to the fire" in the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted recommendations from a special panel on Jewish extremists’ violence that include issuing administrative detention orders against the rioters; increasing the number of those banned from certain areas; trying the rioters in military courts; giving the Israeli army the authority to detain demonstrators; and increasing the number of investigation teams and resources to conduct investigations.

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