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West Bank mosque torched

By Kareem Khadder and Paul Colsey, CNN
updated 7:37 PM EST, Wed December 7, 2011
A Palestinian man inspects damage to a mosque in the West Bank village of Bruqin near Nablus on December 7.
A Palestinian man inspects damage to a mosque in the West Bank village of Bruqin near Nablus on December 7.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police suspect the attack is the work of radical Israeli settlers
  • No one was in the mosque when it was attacked with burning tires
  • Palestinian district governor says Israel isn't doing enough to stop attacks by settlers

Jerusalem (CNN) -- A Palestinian mosque in the northern West Bank was torched early Wednesday morning in what police suspect is a nationalistic "price tag" attack.

"Price tag" is a term frequently used to describe acts of vandalism by radical Israeli settlers exacting a "price" against Palestinian targets or Israeli security forces in response to actions by the Israeli government to evacuate illegal West Bank outposts.

No one was in the mosque, in the village of Burqin, when it was attacked with burning tires, Israeli police spokeswoman Samari Luba told CNN. Luba said police suspect that right-wing nationalist Jewish youths my have been involved, but the incident is still under investigation.

The Palestinian governor of the district that includes Burqin, Isaam Abu Baker, told CNN that he believed a group of Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Ariel broke into the village between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m., threw the burning tires at the entrance of the mosque, and set two other vehicles on fire.

"This is not the first and not an isolated incident," Abu Baker said, blaming the Israeli government for not doing enough to stop settlers' attacks on Palestinian mosques and villages in the West Bank.

"The Israeli government are opening the way for the settlers to conduct such attacks. The Israeli government can stop such attacks but is not doing so. The mosque was served a verbal demolition order. This opened the way for the settlers to do such an attack," Abu Baker told CNN.

The mayor of Burqin, Ekrima Samara, told CNN the walls of the mosque were spray-painted with graffiti in Hebrew that said "Avi, hero of Ariel."

In the past year there has been a series of high-profile "price tag" attacks in both the West Bank and in Arab areas of Israel.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage has increased by 40% in 2011 compared to 2010, and by over 165% compared to 2009.

Separately, the Israeli military announced Wednesday that it had arrested three soldiers suspected of involvement in "price tag" attacks in the West Bank. The military would not specify which incidents the soldiers were being investigated for and said that seven minors had been taken into custody by the police last week for potential involvement in attacks.

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