Mosque in northern Israel set on fire after series of similar attacks
JERUSALEM — A mosque in an Arab village in northern Israel was set on fire early Monday in what police called an arson attack, and an outside wall was defaced with Hebrew graffiti.
The attack followed a series of similar assaults on mosques in the West Bank as part of a campaign by radical settlers to exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for violence against settlers, or action by the authorities against illegal building in Jewish outposts in the West Bank.
Monday’s arson attack was in the village of Tuba-Zangariya in Galilee, where calm had prevailed for years.
The mosque was seriously damaged, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Images showed burned carpets and holy books and charred walls.
Later, about 200 villagers began to march from the village along a road in the direction of Rosh Pina, a Jewish town. Rosenfeld said the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters after some threw stones at police officers and burned tires on the road.
Israeli leaders condemned the attack on the mosque. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the images of the damage were “shocking” and had “no place in the state of Israel.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the “criminals” involved wanted to upset Jewish-Arab relations.
The president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the country’s chief rabbis visited the mosque in the afternoon in a show of solidarity, along with leading clerics from other faiths.
Sheik Fuad Zangariya, the imam of the mosque, told Israeli television that the village had always maintained friendly relations with neighboring Jewish communities.
By evening, the atmosphere in the village was tense but calm.
The police said an investigation was under way. There have been no charges in the previous cases of arson against mosques in the West Bank.
As with many of those cases, an outside wall of the burned mosque was scrawled with the Hebrew word for “price tag,” as the settlers’ campaign is known. The words “revenge” and “Palmer” also appeared there.
Last month, Jewish settler Asher Palmer, 25, was killed along with his baby son when their car overturned on a West Bank road last month. The police said the crash occurred after Palmer was struck on the head by a stone, and that they believe it was thrown by Palestinians.
Jews and Arabs live in a patchwork of villages and towns in Galilee, where the last major disturbances occurred in 2000. Then, Israeli Arabs rioted along with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, and Israeli police officers shot and killed 13 Israeli Arab citizens.
Arab citizens make up some 20 percent of Israel’s population of more than 7.5 million.