The main gate of the mosque in Deir Istiya village and some of the
carpeting inside were charred by the flames. Graffiti in Hebrew,
reading "Revenge for spilled blood" and "Arabs Out", was scrawled on
an outside wall and a door.
Such slogans have been used in previous attacks on Palestinian
property which police suspect were carried out by settlers.
The incident comes at a delicate time in Israeli-Palestinian peace
talks, which were revived last year and are set to expire in April.
The United States is trying, with little obvious success, to narrow
gaps between the two sides.
Israeli soldiers entered Deir Istiya after the attack and an Israeli
police spokesman said a search for the suspects was under way.
A series of vandalism acts involving arson and writing graffiti on
homes — apparently perpetrated by settlers — in Palestinian villages
in recent weeks has raised tensions.
Last year, the Israeli Defence Ministry announced a crackdown on
settler vandals, saying they were tantamount to terrorists and their
attacks could fan sectarian violence.
Israel cites Biblical and historical claims to the West Bank, but
the United Nations considers its settlements illegal and most world
powers say they are an obstacle to peace.
[to top of second column]
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, both
captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, as part of their future
state, and envision a full withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and
(Reporting by Abed Qusini and Ori Lewis, Writing By Noah Browning;
editing by Crispian Balmer and Elizabeth Piper)
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