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Mosque set alight in Galilee village

Oct. 3, 2011 10:06 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 4, 2011 12:59 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- A mosque in northern Israel was set on fire overnight Sunday in a suspected 'price tag' attack as village residents clashed with police on Monday, a spokesman said.

A number of suspects entered the mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangaria and set fire to it, causing heavy damage to the carpets and walls, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP.

On the outside of the mosque were scrawled the words "price tag" and "revenge" in Hebrew, Rosenfeld said.

Jamal Zangriya, a resident of the village, told Israel Radio: "We believe extremists from outside the village did it," blaming rabbis from the nearby town of Safed for incitement against Arabs, which he said may have led to the incident.

They also wrote the word "Palmer," in an apparent reference to Asher Palmer, an Israeli settler who died with his infant son in the southern West Bank on September 23 after his car was hit by stones thrown by Palestinians, causing it to crash.

Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Ahmad Tibi condemned the arson attack and "racist" graffiti sprayed on mosque walls.

"This group is not 'price tag,' as it is called, but rather a terrorist Jewish organization which practices whatever it wishes fearing no deterrence,” he said in a statement.

“This dangerous deterioration must be stopped, and we hold the right wing, extremist, racist Israeli government responsible for that, and the police are responsible for getting to the perpetrators of this deed.”

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma'an that around 200 people from the Tuba Zangaria village marched towards the town of Rosh Pina after the arson attack.

Tear gas was fired to disperse villagers after stones were thrown at police, Rosenfeld said. Security has been heightened in the north to prevent any "deterioration" in the situation and police are talking to local leaders to calm the situation, he added.

Hardline Jewish settlers have adopted what they call a "price tag" policy under which they attack Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government measures against settlements.

Northern District Police Commander Roni Attia set up a special investigation team to deal with the incident.

"This is a very severe price tag incident," police quoted Attia as saying.

He called on residents of the area to preserve public order and allow the police to investigate the incident without disturbances.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying such incidences "do not belong in the state of Israel."

In June, a mosque in al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah was torched and sprayed with anti-Arab graffiti.

In a similar incident, settlers broke into al-Nurayn mosque in Qusra, south of Nablus in September, smashing windows before setting fire to used tires inside the building, locals told a Ma'an correspondent.

Settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries and damage to property are up more than 50 percent this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which documents violence in the Palestinian territories.

Almost all "price tag" attacks occur in the occupied West Bank, but last year an incident took place in the Palestinian-Israeli village of Iblin, also in the northern Galilee region.

Around twenty percent, or 1.3 million people, of Israel's population are of Palestinian origin.

They are largely the descendants of Palestinians that managed to remain during the 1948 war, when an estimated 700,000 were expelled from or fled their homes during fighting that would see the establishment of the state of Israel.

Rights groups say that Israelis of Palestinian origin face discrimination in employment, education and public funding within Israel.

Ma'an staff and Reuters contributed to this report
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