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West Bank fire attack damages mosque

Updated: 2014-11-13 08:03
By Agencies in Ramallah, West Bank (China Daily)

 West Bank fire attack damages mosque

Palestinians inspect the damage to a mosque following an attack in the West Bank village of Mughayer, north of Ramallah, on Wednesday. Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press

Village mayor blames Jewish settlers as tensions increase over holy site

An attack against a mosque in a West Bank village early on Wednesday started a fire that destroyed its first floor, the village's mayor said, blaming Jewish settlers for the attack.

The fire broke out before dawn in the village of Mughayer, north of Ramallah, said Mayor Faraj al-Naasan. He said efforts of residents and Palestinian fire services to quell the blaze succeeded only in saving the building's second floor.

The mayor said he had no doubt that Jewish settlers were responsible, citing a previous settler attack against another mosque in the village two years ago and frequent settler attacks against vehicles and olive groves there.

"Only Jewish settlers would do this," al-Naasan said.

"The settlers set fire to the whole of the first floor of the mosque" in the village of Al-Mughayir, near the Shilo settlement, a security official said. Another mosque was set ablaze in a similar attack in 2012.

In a related incident, Israeli police said a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an ancient synagogue in the Israeli-Arab town of Shfaram late on Tuesday night, causing minor damage.

The attacks came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions are soaring against the background of competing claims to a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City.

Visits by Jewish worshippers to the site - known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - have raised concerns among Muslims that Israel is secretly trying to take over the site.

This in turn has fanned strife in a region already on edge following the collapse of US-led peace talks, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the summer in the Gaza Strip, and new Israeli settlement construction pans in east Jerusalem.

The tensions at the shrines have frequently boiled over into violent demonstrations, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel has no plans to change the status quo at the Jerusalem holy sites.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu traded accusations over the tensions. Abbas said that frequent visits to the site by Jewish worshippers are fueling clashes, and he accused Israel of leading the region toward a "religious war". The Israeli leader said Abbas was making matters worse and inflaming tempers.

Abbas' adviser Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Abbas was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Thursday, and would emphasize his concerns about alleged Israeli attempts to change the status quo at the Jerusalem holy site.

On Wednesday, Abbas was to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II. Jordan, which is the custodian to the Jerusalem holy site, recalled its ambassador in protest after an Israeli police raid last week related to a clash at the entrance to the mosque.





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