The Palestinians claimed the fire was the result of a "price tag" reprisal by settlers, but security forces are examining whether the fire was caused by a short circuit. Civil Administration sources conveyed calming messages to the Palestinians.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the West Bank told Ynet that the source of the fire will soon come to light. "The Israeli experts and our experts are at the scene, but we have no doubt this was arson by settlers. Evidence of this is the collection of Qurans stacked in a pile," he said.
The mosque's imam, Sheikh Abdel Naser, said he cannot accuse anyone at this point, but noted that "our area is surrounded by settlers and we are waiting for the investigation of the Palestinian police here, and also of the PA's Waqf and ministry of religion. At this stage, the mosque is not fit for prayer."
Head of the mosque's maintenance committee, Sheikh Majed Daraghmeh, told Ynet that around 3 am residents heard vehicles driving around the area of the mosque, but no one dared to step out because they were certain it was settlers.
"But at 3:45, when the mosque's imam arrived at the site to prepare for the morning prayers, he saw the mosque on fire. The fire consumed 80%, maybe 90% of the mosque."
Short circuit or arson? The burned mosque on Tuesday (Photo: Reuters)
He said the area where the fire originated was not connected to any electricity because works were underway at the site, and added that the pile of Qurans found in the area of the fire proves that it was deliberate arson.
According to Daraghmeh, this is not the first time the village was targeted by settlers: "In the past they also smashed windows, uprooted olive trees, damaged houses and property. At least once a week settlers come in, riot and harm the village."
In the meantime, the Palestinians Authority has not officially blamed the fire on settlers, but sources say there is no doubt it was arson. The village is located near the settlements of Shilo, Ma'ale Levona, and Eli.
Last month, a number of "price tag" reprisals were carried out. In the village of Hawara near Nablus, three Palestinian vehicles were torched and graffiti was sprayed on a mosque.
Two days later, fire was set to two Palestinian vehicles in the village of Jensafut, west of Nablus, and the words "price tag" and a Start of David were sprayed on the walls of a building in the village.
Last December, fire was set to a mosque in Yasuf village, and the words "price tag" were also sprayed. Police arrested youths from the settlement of Yitzhar and even questioned the rabbi of the community's yeshiva, but no one was charged.
Ali Waked contributed to this report