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High tension after West Bank mosque attack

Dec. 13, 2009 3:28 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2009 10:57 P.M.)
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Sunday denied a group of rabbis entry to the northern West Bank village of Yasuf to visit its mosque which was set on fire by extremist Israeli settlers on Friday morning.

Israeli authorities said the rabbis visit was banned out of fear for their safety after local residents demonstrated in the village protesting the arson. Hundreds of students took to the streets chanting slogans and railing against the rabbis visit.

The governor of Salfit, Munir Abboushi told Ma’an that tensions were high in the village as angry villagers took to the streets, and thus it would be very difficult to keep things under control had the rabbis arrived.

He explained that villagers believed the rabbinical delegation included settlers, which he said would only inflame the situation further.

“I met the rabbis at the Tappuah junction and explained to them that we would welcome anybody who condemns settlers’ provocative actions,” Abboushi added.

Ma’an’s reporter learned that the delegation was comprised of 20 Israeli clerics including Shlomo Ammar, who represents Ashkenazi Jews, and Shlomi Meretz, who represents Moroccan Jews. They brought more than 50 copies of the holy Quran to express their condemnation of the arson. The Quran copies were handed to the governor of Salfit.

“We refused entry of the rabbis to the village after we knew that they came from Israeli settlements,” said Abdul-Rahim Muslih, head of Yasuf’s village council. He added, “We were informed yesterday that activists from Israeli peace movements were coming to the village, but we were surprised today that it was rabbis from Israeli settlements.”

Early on Friday settlers set fire to the Yasuf mosque, destroying copies of the Quran and carpets. The arsonists also spray painted threatening messages in Hebrew on the building’s floor, including “We will burn you all.”
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