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Mosque fire was arson, villagers say

May 4, 2010 9:09 A.M. (Updated: May 5, 2010 10:14 A.M.)
Nablus – Ma'an – Palestinians said a group of settlers entered the mosque of the Nablus-area village of Al-Lubban Ash-Sharqiya, gathered flammables, and set them alight in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Head of the local council of Al-Lubban Jamal Daraghma said residents living adjacent to the mosque heard cars approaching the building at 3am. Residents said the group tore curtains from the walls and threw several copies of the Qur'an into a pile on the mosque floor and set it aflame.

The village is surrounded by three settlements; Eli, Shilo, and Ma’ale Levona; and, according to Daraghma, the abutting illegal communities consumed more than 30 percent of the village lands, confiscated to build the settlements.

As the blaze was set, locals called fire and rescue teams, which arrived on the scene to douse the flames. Officials said the mosque was badly damaged, and police said an investigation into the arson was initiated.

After complaining to Israeli authorities, Israel's Civil Administration told Palestinians that the fire was likely the result of an electrical malfunction, Israeli media reported.

The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the mosque's imam as saying that residents were "waiting for the investigation of the Palestinian police here, and also of the PA's Waqf and Ministry of Religion," but noted the history of settler antagonism in the village.

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