Bloomberg News

Ex-Mosque Torched as Israel Grapples With Settler Activists

December 14, 2011

(Updates with comment by Barak in last two paragraphs.)

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- An arson attempt was made on a former mosque building in downtown Jerusalem overnight as the Israeli government weighed new steps to deal with an outbreak of violence by activists in the West Bank settler movement.

Vandals set fire to the former mosque and spray-painted it with graffiti, according to a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld. The graffiti included the expression “price tag,” which has been used as a motto by West Bank settlement activists in several vandalism incidents against mosques and army property over the past year, warning of retaliation if the government evacuates unauthorized settlement outposts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that he has instructed security and criminal justice officials to prepare an emergency plan to halt such acts, saying the violence “has crossed all lines.”

A group of settler activists threw stones at Israeli security forces at a West Bank junction overnight and one person was arrested, an army spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously in accordance with military regulation.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today that among the steps being considered is officially designating those who carry out such attacks as terrorists.

“I’m convinced we must take every step this requires, including the use of emergency regulations, restraining orders and administrative detention, and deal with them the same way we deal with criminal organizations and terrorist groups,” Barak told Army Radio today.

--Editor: Heather Langan

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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