October 14, 2014 / 6:49 AM / in 3 years

Palestinian mosque in West Bank torched in suspected arson

AQRABA West Bank (Reuters) - A mosque was set alight in a suspected arson attack in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and the name of an Israeli vigilante group called "price tag" was found scribbled on an outside wall, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the incident in Aqraba, a village east of Nablus, and urged Israel's police chief to head an investigation adding that the case "should be treated as terrorism".

The "price tag" group has carried out scores of attacks on Palestinian, Israeli Arab, and church property in the West Bank and inside Israel since 2008. The group says it aims to exact a price for any opposition to settlement building.

Residents told Reuters they noticed smoke coming from the building before dawn and rushed to douse the flames, which damaged a carpet and blackened one of the walls.

"If we hadn't rushed to put out the fire the entire building could have gone up in flames," said Maher Fares, a villager.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official from the Nablus area, said he suspected Jewish settlers in the area had carried out the attack. The settlement of Itamar is about 4 km (2 miles) north of Aqraba.

"They broke a window and threw a firebomb into the mosque which burned the carpet," Daghlas said.

Hebrew script reading "price tag" had been scrawled on the outside of the mosque, a Reuters cameraman said.

Rivlin demanded a wider crackdown against the vandals. Many suspects arrested in the past have been minors who are released without .

"We cannot continue to regard incidents like these as marginal. Rather, we must uproot them," a statement from his office said.

"If we do not act decisively, we will all pay the 'price tag'," Rivlin also said.

Reporting by Abed Qusini and Ali Sawafta; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Luke Baker and Raissa Kasolowsky

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