Vandals torched a mosque in northern Israel in a suspected revenge attack by right-wing extremists that sparked a “furious” response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
The mosque, located in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangaria in the northern Galilee region, sustained heavy damage in the overnight attack, in which the arsonists scrawled the words “tag” and “revenge” on the walls.
Police described the attack as “a very severe price tag incident” -- a term which usually refers to acts of vengeance against Palestinians and their property by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
“The images are shocking and do not belong in the state of Israel,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as saying in a statement.
“This is an act which is against the values of the state of Israel, which places supreme importance on freedom of religion and freedom of worship,” he was quoted as saying.
The attackers also graffitied the word “Palmer” on the walls in an apparent reference to Asher Palmer, an Israeli settler who died with his infant son in the southern West Bank on Sept. 23 after his car was hit by stones thrown by Palestinians, causing it to crash.
Hardline Jewish settlers have adopted what they call a “price tag” policy under which they attack Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government measures against settlements.
Although such acts of vengeance normally occur in the occupied West Bank, a similar attack took place in Ibtin, another Arab Israeli village in Galilee, last year.
The attack sparked anger in the village, with a few hundred residents burning tires and trying to block a road in the area, police said.
Protesters threw stones at police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowds, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying police representatives were talking to village leaders “in an effort to calm things down.”
Northern District Police Commander Roni Attia described the attack as “a very severe price tag incident” and set up a special investigation team to deal with it, police said.
He also called on residents of the area to preserve public order and allow the police to investigate without disturbances.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch strongly condemned the incident.
“An attack on holy places is an atrocious and despicable act, that cannot be ignored,” he said in a statement.
“I spoke with the police commissioner and was updated on the police's treatment of the event and on their determination to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.”