CAIRO - Suspected extremist Israeli settlers vandalized and set on fire early on Tuesday, June 19, a West Bank mosque and sprayed graffiti on its walls in a clear price tag' attack.
"At one o'clock we heard screaming from the people of the village and realized the mosque was on fire. More than three hundred people awoke and we managed to put it out," Abdul Karim Sharaf, mayor of Jabaa, a Palestinian village of 4,200 about five miles from both Jerusalem and Ramallah, told The Jerusalem Post.
"After that we saw the writing, racist writing," he said.
"This great injustice is clear to the world."
Police officials said it was the fourth attack on a mosque in the last 18 months and part of a recent uptick in so-called price tag incidents by radical settlers.
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said that several suspects entered Jabaa early on Tuesday, then broke a large window in the mosque and set a fire that burned several yards of a carpet and wall.
Outside the building, the slogan Ulpana war was written on the right side of the window, and Price tag on the left, suggesting the attack was in exchange for the coming evacuation.
"Ulpana" is an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank that is slated to be evacuated early next month, after Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the outpost was built on Palestinian private land.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, calling the assailants "intolerant and irresponsible lawbreakers" and said they would be brought to justice.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called the graffiti an act of "terror," adding that such activities harm not only Israel but also the settlement enterprise.
"Just yesterday I said at a Hasbara conference that price tag attacks are illegal, immoral, and gravely undermine the image of Israel and the settlement enterprise under the gaze of the international community,"
Ayalon wrote on his Facebook page. "And here, this morning, we hear about another price tag attack."
"We must not allow such acts of terrorism to continue," he said.
The accident stirred Palestinian fears that the repeated attacks would threaten his peaceful village, blaming settlers for the vandalism.
This time we succeeded in controlling the fire, but I don't feel this is over, Bsharat, the mayor of Jabaa, told New York Times.
They can do worse than this. Our citizens and their property are in danger.
Under a so-called "price tag" or "mutual concern" doctrine, settlers respond "whenever, wherever and however" they wish to any government attempt to remove illegally built outposts.
The term is 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.
The policy also encourages settlers to vent their anger at innocent Palestinians living in the vicinity of such outposts.
The attack is the latest in assaults by Jewish settlers on Muslim worship places.
Last October, Israeli settlers torched a mosque in northern Israel, sparking furious condemnations from Palestinians and Israeli politicians
In 2010, a similar attack took place in Ibtin, another Arab Israeli village in Galilee.
Earlier, a group of settlers entered the village of Bayt Fajar before dawn and burned down the local mosque.
In 2009, settlers torched and graffitied the Al-Kabir Mosque in the northern West Bank village of Yasuf, writing We will have our revenge and We will burn you all, on the carpets of the building.