Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Arsonists torch mosque in Jerusalem

AP, JERUSALEM

A Jerusalem mosque was torched yesterday, provoking calls in Israel for a more effective crackdown on Jewish extremists suspected in a string of increasingly brazen acts of violence.

The Israeli government has vowed to root out and punish the assailants, who in recent months have expanded their actions from the West Bank into Israel proper.

Their acts now include arson and vandalism against Israeli military bases as well as Muslim mosques, cemeteries, farmlands and cars and occasional assaults on Palestinian civilians.

However, the increasing frequency of the attacks, the sparse number of arrests and absence of indictments have also generated allegations that the Israeli government isn’t acting forcefully enough against extremists after two years of violence.

An attack on a Muslim site in Jerusalem — the contested holy city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — raises the stakes further.

The words “price tag” were spray-painted at the mosque — a reference to Jewish extremists’ practice of exacting retribution for government action against settlements. Anti-Muslim graffiti such as “Mohammed is dead” and “A good Arab is a dead Arab” was also scrawled at the scene.

Other acts of vandalism were reported in two Palestinian cities in the West Bank, where the military reported that cars were set afire and hate graffiti was scrawled.

Israeli politicians have taken tough stances against Jewish radicalism, particularly after protesters broke into an Israeli military base in the West Bank on Tuesday, damaging vehicles, setting fires and slightly injuring a senior commander.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “take care of these attackers with a firm hand” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decried the “homegrown terror,” while acknowledging that Israeli military intelligence doesn’t gather intelligence about Jewish groups in the West Bank.

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