A group of Israeli settlers has torched a mosque in the central sector of the occupied West Bank amid continued acts of vandalism and violence by settlers, known as price tag attacks, against Palestinians and Muslim holy sites.
Palestinian sources, requesting anonymity, said the extremists stormed the city of al-Bireh, located 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of Jerusalem, in the early hours of Monday and scribbled racial slogans against Arabs and Muslims on the walls of the mosque, before setting parts of it on fire.
Local residents rushed to the site once they took notice of the fire, and managed to extinguish it before it could sweep through the whole building.
The Palestinian Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs denounced the arson attack in a statement, saying it exposes the racist nature of Israel. It further accused Israeli authorities of supporting settler groups as they press ahead with their price tag attacks.
Speaking at the start of a weekly cabinet session in Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the arson attack as a criminal act and held the Israeli regime responsible for the sacrilegious move.
“This is a criminal and racist act, and we hold the Occupation (Israeli) authorities fully responsible for the assault and the rising level of Israeli settler violence [against Palestinians],” he said.
Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates also censured the attack.
“The Ministry, while seriously following up cases of settlers’ attacks on places of worship, holds the Israeli regime and its prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] fully and directly responsible for the latest attack,” it said in a statement.
Moreover, the secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, decried the arson attack as an act rooted in “racism and apartheid.”
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
According to human rights groups, incidents of sabotage and violence by extremist settlers against Palestinians and their property are a daily occurrence throughout the West Bank.