Unknown attackers attempted to torch a West Bank mosque and sprayed it with Hebrew-language graffiti early on Tuesday, in an incident that bore the hallmark of extremist Jewish settlers.
“In the middle of the night ... somebody entered the mosque, broke the window and threw a match causing a fire,” a resident of the village of Jaba, between Jerusalem and Ramallah told Israeli army radio.
“They wrote in Hebrew, ‘The war has begun,’ and ‘Pay the price’,” said the man, identified by the radio as Sheikh Datoun.
“Neighbors saw the fire, ran to the mosque and put it out,” he said.
Israeli police told AFP that they had yet to carry out a forensic investigation but there were signs pointing to settler activists.
“At the moment different directions are being looked into as well as the possibility that it was caused as a result of one of these price tag incidents, that’s one of the main directions that we’ll be looking into,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“Price tag” is a euphemism for revenge hate crimes by Israeli extremists carried out in protest at government moves against the settlements.
They normally target Palestinians and Arabs but have also been directed at leftwing Israeli activists and the army. Incidents have included multiple arson attacks on cars and mosques.
The perpetrators are rarely caught, although in recent months the security forces have increased efforts to clamp down on the phenomenon after an attack on an army base last year.