Mosque damaged by arson attack in the occupied West Bank

Palestinian officials blamed Jewish settlers for the vandalism, which included Hebrew graffiti scrawled on the wall

A Palestinian man walks past a Hebrew slogan reading "a siege for Arabs, not for Jews! the Land of Israel for the People of Israel" after a mosque section was set on fire, in Al-Bireh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian officials have accused Israeli settlers of setting fire to a mosque in the occupied West Bank.

Part of the mosque in the town of Al Bireh was set ablaze after flammable liquid was poured through a smashed window early on Monday morning, a Palestinian emergency services official said.

A slogan sprayed in black Hebrew letters on the mosque’s wall read “The Land of Israel for the People of Israel,” in reference to a biblical, historical and political claim to an area that includes the occupied West Bank.

Residents living near the mosque helped firefighters extinguish the flames, which erupted shortly before dawn and damaged a bathroom area of Al Bir and Al Thsan mosque.

The Palestinian religious affairs ministry and the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, accused Jewish settlers of lighting the blaze. “This is racism and apartheid,” Mr Erekat said in a statement.

Similar slogans have been used in previous attacks on Palestinian property that Israeli police suspect were carried out by Israeli ultranationalists in the West Bank.

Thirteen vehicles were vandalised in the Palestinian village of Al Lubban ash Sharqiya near Nablus earlier this month – one of a growing number of attacks against Palestinians by settlers in the occupied West Bank.

B’Tselem, which documents human rights breaches in the Israeli-occupied territories, reported 30 incidents, including physical attacks, vandalism and the driving away of Palestinian farmers by settlers in the occupied West Bank in June.

Israeli Cabinet minister Amir Peretz said in a post on Twitter that “the criminals and hatemongers” responsible for the attack on Monday should be brought to justice, though he didn’t accuse Jewish settlers of starting the blaze.

More than 400,000 settlers live among about three million Palestinians in the West Bank, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Palestinians, who seek a state in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem, say the settlements – viewed by most nations as illegal – make a future country unviable.