Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Fire attack on West Bank mosque

Palestinians inspect fire damage at the Yasuf mosque
Palestinians inspect fire damage at the Yasuf mosque

A mosque in a village in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank has been damaged in an arson attack.

Attackers set fire to bookshelves and a large area of carpet in the mosque, and sprayed graffiti in Hebrew on a wall.

Palestinian residents of the village of Yasuf clashed with Israeli soldiers investigating the attack. Eyewitnesses say settlers were responsible.

Attacks on Palestinians by Jewish settlers are increasing. A number of incidents have been captured on video.

One of the slogans sprayed on the wall of the mosque in Yasuf read: "Get ready to pay the price," Israeli public radio reported. Another read: "We will burn you all."

BBC Map of the West Bank

Some hard-line settlers advocate a "price tag" policy under which they attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure they see as threatening Jewish settlements.

The village is located near the Jewish settlement of Tappuah.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it "views the incident gravely" and that security forces were working to locate the perpetrators.

But the local Palestinian governor, Munir Abushi, accused the Israeli security forces of doing too little to protect Palestinians from settler attacks.

A settler organisation in the area denied that settlers were behind the attack.

Meanwhile one rabbi from the south of the West Bank, Mechachem Froman, has offered to help renovate the mosque, saying attacks against holy buildings were against Jewish law.

Israeli human rights groups have accused the police and army of running inadequate investigations into attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

One group reported that nine out of 10 investigations into alleged attacks on Palestinians by settlers ended without anyone being charged.

Settlement curb call

On Wednesday, thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters staged a rally in Jerusalem in protest at a recently announced curb on settlement building in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month lull in permits for new settlement homes in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem.

The order followed US and Palestinian calls for a total freeze in settlement building.

Palestinian officials have refused to rejoin peace talks until a total freeze is imposed.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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