Conflict & Justice

Suspected Jewish extremists burn Jerusalem's Nebi Akasha mosque


A Palestinian municipal worker gestures at the vandalized walls of a disused mosque in a central neighborhood of Jerusalem, December 14, 2011.


Marco Longari

Police in Jerusalem are investigating a suspected hate crime after a mosque was set alight Tuesday night. The building was badly smoke damaged, but no one was reported hurt.

The Nebi Akasha mosque, which dates back to the 12th century and has been disused since 1948, was also defaced with racist graffiti, including "A good Arab is a dead Arab" and "Muhammad is a pig," reported the Jerusalem Post.

The vandals also left the slogan "price tag," linking the attack with other recent violence directed at Palestinians and the Israeli security forces as apparent "payback" for attempts to restrict settlement building.

Police and Shin Bet security officials are investigating.

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The same night the mosque was burnt, vehicles belonging to Palestinians were torched in the West Bank, according to the Post. A West Bank Israeli military base and officers were attacked on Monday, apparently in protest against the ordered demolition of the unauthorized Ramat Gilad settlement.

Those responsible are thought to belong to the so-called hilltop youth, "a group of young people who were born in the settlements and belong to the extreme right," according to Haaretz.

Police attempted to arrest several right-wing activists in Jerusalem Wednesday in connection with price-tag attacks, and were met with violent resistance, reported Haaretz. Suspects vandalized police cars, slashing tires and smashing windows.

Israeli authorities have condemned the attacks. Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat said that "zero tolerance should be shown to violence of any kind," while Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the perpetrators were guilty of "terror behavior" and could be designated a terrorist organization.

"We need to take care of the Jewish terror like we handle the country's crime syndicates," Barak told Israel Army Radio.

Israel's Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman is due to propose new, tougher anti-terrorism laws later Wednesday in response to the attacks, according to Haaretz.

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Just hours after the mosque was torched, Israeli police arrested six Jewish extremists suspected of attacks on military bases and mosques in recent months, the Associated Press reported. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the six arrested were in their late teens or early 20s, and were not believed to be responsible for the mosque attack.

Attacks on military bases, mosques, cemeteries, farmlands and cars in the West Bank are believed to be the work of Jewish extremists who are upset over government policies that they feel are unfairly biased in favor of Palestinians, the AP reported.

The Israeli government has vowed to root out and punish the vandals after being accused that after the increasing frequency of the attacks there has been a sparse number of arrests.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "take care of these attackers with a firm hand,” the AP reported.