WASHINGTON - A new American report on terrorism strongly criticizes Israel for its lackluster response to attacks by extremist settlers against the Palestinian population and their property.
"Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted according to UN and NGO sources," says the State Department's annual Country Report on Terrorism.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni responded to the report Wednesday saying, "Hate crimes that have rode into Israel from Yitzhar destroys us from within and disfigures our impression on the outside world."
Livni said that the report, "unveils what we already knew: these crimes, known as 'price tag' crimes, inflict massive damage in Israel... as a nation that must bring these criminals to justice."
The report states that attacks of this nature number in the hundreds.
"The UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage. Violent extremists, including Israeli settlers, vandalized five mosques and three churches in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to data compiled by the UN."
The paper also notes that the phenomenon has spilled over into Israel, where Muslim and Christian sites have been targeted.
"'Price tag' attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement) expanded into Israel from the West Bank in 2013," the report states, acknowledging that the Israeli authorities have responded to these attacks.
"The Israeli government formed a new unit of the national police designated specifically to investigate these crimes in both Israel and the West Bank and in June the Security Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Defense to classify groups that perpetrated 'price tag' attacks as 'illegal associations,' which allowed security authorities greater leeway in collecting information on and seizing the property of groups, and of their members, that perpetrated 'price tag' attacks."
The report, also noted a massive drop in rocket attacks from Gaza and Sinai into Israel. "Palestinian terrorist organizations in the Hamas-controlled Gaza continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory. The number of rocket and mortar launchings on Israel from Gaza and the Sinai was the lowest in 2013 in more than a decade, with 74 launchings compared to 2,557 in 2012."
Citing Israeli figuers, the report said that "36 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory in 2013, compared to 1,632 in 2012. Of the 74 launchings on southern Israel, 69 were launched from the Gaza and five from the Sinai Peninsula."