Clashes broke out between IDF forces and Palestinians near the West Bank village of Yasuf, where fire was set to a mosque,
possibly by settlers, earlier Friday.
As the Muslim worshippers left their Friday prayers, a number of Palestinians threw stones at IDF forces in the village. As a result, a Border Guard officer was lightly wounded. The Palestinians claim the soldiers responded with live fire and tear gas.
As a result of the shooting, the Palestinians said two people were lightly injured. They sources further claimed that settlers joined in the clashes.
A number of representatives of Palestinian organizations attended the Friday prayers at the mosque, including Parliament member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who harshly criticized the Israeli government.
"The entire government of Israel is a government of settlers and settlements that reflect the deep end of extremism. The settlers' attacks do not stop at hurting land and tress, but have reached the holy places as well," he said.
He then urged the Palestinians Authority to give the means necessary to conduct a struggle and popular resistance against Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the arson, caling it "a despicable crime."
At the end of his meeting with MK Ahmad Tibi in Amman, Jordan, Abbas said, "The settlers are behaving brutally. This wild unlawfulness must be brought to an end."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the defense establishment to work to locate and arrest those behind the arson, and called for the justice to be served. The minister's office published a statement saying he considers the incident a very grave one and said, "This is an extreme act meant to harm any of the government's attempts to advance the process for Israel's future."
Despite Friday's vandalism being the third act of hooliganism against Palestinians this week, settlers continue to claim that the perpetrators were simply bad apples.
The Samaria Regional Council said in response, "According to the security forces' reports, a carpet and a number of books were burnt, and the mosque was not torched. It seems to be more of an act of eccentrics or a provocation."
Mosque's carpet torched (Photo: AP)
The statement continued, "We expect to police to investigate and find who did this. Unlike the Arabs, who repeatedly torched and vandalized Joseph's Tomb and other holy places, the position is clear to all that sites holy to other religions must not be harmed."
In addition to setting fire to the mosque, graffiti was sprayed in Hebrew, which the Palestinians claim says: "We will burn all of you."
The defense establishment denies that such graffiti was sprayed, but says the words: "Prepare for a price tag" were found at the site.
"Price tag" is the slogan adopted some months ago by extremist settlers who carry out reprisals against Palestinians in response to the evacuation of settlement structures by Israeli defense forces.
The Palestinians also claimed that the mosque's library, which houses Qurans, was torched. The defense establishment denied this claim.
Burnt bookcase in Yasuf mosque (Photo: AFP)
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan was less forgiving towards the vandals: "I hope the Israel Police exposes the perpetrators, whoever they are, and exercises the full rigor of the law. Whoever did this does not have Judea and Samaria's settlement's best interest at heart. This act is both wrong and foolish."
Right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir, on the other hand, said it was actually those who decided to freeze construction in settlements that are guilty of the arson.
"If the mosque's arsons really did do this as a 'price tag', then the responsibility lies first and foremost with (Prime Minister) Netanyahu, (Defense Minister) Barak, and the Civil Administration inspectors who fanning the flames and causing riots. Netanyahu must freeze the racist orders in order for the storm on the ground to settle."
Meanwhile, the Left responded harshly to the incident. "This is a dangerous escalation meant to cause a deterioration and bloodshed," said Labor MK Ofir Pines. "The government must enforce the law and catch the criminals. A lack of governmental alignment to curb the 'price tag' strategy, which has been employed by the settlers for years, is a serious and dangerous problem."
United Arab List – Ta'al faction Chairman Ahmad Tibi said following the incident: "The defense minister and the military are responsible for this crime, and for the settlers' ongoing unlawfulness against Palestinians. The village of Yasuf is located near the settlement of Tapuach."
Ali Waked contributed to this report