Vandals torched the mosque in the West Bank village of Mughayyir, near Ramallah, overnight. No injuries or were reported, but the building sustained some damage.
The residents reported finding fuel-soaked tires on the premises and Hebrew slogans reading "Ali Ayin," "Price Tag," and "This is only the beginning" spray-painted on the walls; prompting police to investigate the possible involvement of settlers.
The police suspect the act might have been perpetrated in retaliation for last week's eviction of
Ali Ayin, an illegal outpost in Binyamin. Security forces are canvassing the area.
Mughayyir Village elder Farah al-Nasan, said the fire was discovered by people arriving for morning prayers in the mosque.
The damaged mosque (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The Civil Administration said that the IDF sees the desecration of places of worship as extremely grave. A joint police-IDF investigation has been launched.
An IDF Spokesperson statement said that, "This morning, a complaint was filed with the Civil Administration saying that unknown vandals have desecrated the mosque at Mughayyir, northeast of Ramallah.
"Initial investigation revealed several burning tires as well as graffiti. A forensics team is at the scene and an investigation has been launched."
A statement by the Judea and Samaria Police added that the scene has been temporarily closed in order to allow the forensics team to collect evidence.
So far, no suspects have been apprehended.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has
ordered Palestinian Authority institutions to funnel the necessary fund to renovate the mosque.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly denounced the arson and noted that he hopes the arsonists are found and punished soon. "It's a criminal act that was intended as a provocation," Netanyahu said. "The State of Israel stands by the freedom of religion and worship, and will act resolvedly against anyone who aims to violate this principle."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the incident as well, calling it "a criminal act that aims to incite and hurt the chances of peace." A spokesperson for Barak's office said that the defense minister instructed the security forces to take all available measures to locate the suspects in the case.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said that "harming a place of worship is reprehensible. If, heaven forbid, this was done by and Israeli who thought it would help the settlements in Judea and Samaria, it was also a stupid act. I hope security forces will track him down and prosecute him to the full extent of the law."
Rabbis for Human Rights said that this latest act "raises a red flag. If it was, in fact, vandalism, the vandals are part of a group that incites for hatred and violence that might hurt any one of us. This despicable act goes against the values of human morality and our Jewish belief that forbids hurting members of other religions," they added.
Meir Brettler, of the Hilltop Youth movement, denied any connection to the arson: "The Hilltop Youth has nothing to do with it," he said.
"The Hilltop Youth is busy with building and establishing settlements, with supporting and developing Judea and Samaria. I wouldn't be surprised if a group of leftists from Peace Now is plotting these events and aims to slander the pioneers of this generation."
Elior Levy contributed to this report