Friday, December 16, 2011
A day after the Israeli government announced measures to curb a spike in Jewish violence in the West Bank, a Palestinian mosque has been torched and vandalized in what authorities suspect is the latest in a string of attacks against Palestinian by Jewish extremists
According to Palestinian officials, the the al-Noor mosque in the West Bank village of Burqa has been torched and defaced with Hebrew graffiti reading "war" and "Yitzhar settlers." Israeli police and military authorities said that they received a complaint about the incident but that their investigative teams were unable to enter the area due to angry Palestinians residents who threw stones and barred them from entering. The vandalism coincided with an operation by Israeli security forces in which two structures at the unauthorized settler outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar were demolished. The demolition and mosque attack follow an incident previously in which several dozen Israeli Jewish extremists infiltrated and attacked an Israeli military base in the West Bank. The activists entered the base, damaged property, set tires on fire, threw stones and damaged vehicles according the Israeli military. In the course of the violence an Israeli military commander was injured when rocks were thrown at his vehicle. The brazen attack and the lack of action by Israeli soldiers to prevent it shocked many in Israel and lead to calls for the government to do more to stop what some officials were calling Jewish terrorists. In response Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special meeting of security officials and announced the adoption of recommendations to tackle the growing violence by Israeli Jewish extremists. Among the measures, the military will be allowed to arrest and try Israeli rioters in West Bank military courts and there will be an increase in resources for Israeli law enforcement agencies. In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu promised that violators of the law would be punished severely but rejected a recommendation from security officials to label the perpetrators terrorists. After a public event, Netanyahu told reporters, "I intend to fight this phenomenon with all the force available to me as prime minister of Israel. No person can raise his hand against IDF soldiers and police." The Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas was quick to condemn the mosque attack and argued that an Israeli double standard existed in West Bank security practices. "While Palestinian protest is met with the reckless use of legal force... the Israeli forces do nothing to prevent or punish the rising trend of settler violence," read a statement released by the media department of the Palestinian Authority. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of Jewish 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.