Israeli leaders condemn vandalization of West Bank mosque

13:36, December 14, 2009      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres on Sunday condemned once again last week's vandalization of a mosque in the West Bank and instructed authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

The Friday attack was "an especially serious crime" which "negates all human values, Jewish tradition and the tradition of the State of Israel," local news service Ynet quoted Netanyahu as saying at the weekly cabinet meeting. "All of the weight of the law must be used against those responsible," he added.

Calling it "one of the most dreadful attempts to set our region on fire," Peres told a group of elite police officers at his residence that "the entire country must stand against this horrible attempt."

"If we don't respect other people's religions, no one will respect our own religion," the 86-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was quoted as saying at the event meant to celebrate the ongoing Hanukkah festival.

Both of the Israeli leaders deplored the incident shortly after it happened, which saw assailants torch furniture and books at a mosque in the village of Yasuf near the West Bank city of Nablus and spray Nazi slogans in Hebrew on the premises.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior Israeli officials have also voiced their condemnation, adding to a chorus of harsh criticism from the Palestinians and the international community.

Local authorities suspect that the vandals were angry settlers protesting a temporary freeze announced by the Israeli government late last month on new construction projects in West Bank settlements and attempting to put a "price tag" on the ban, which Netanyahu said was a good-will gesture intended to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

Immediately following the attack, local Palestinians scuffled with Israeli Border Police officers. For fears of more attacks by radical settlers and ensuing reprisals by Palestinians, Israeli security forces have beefed up their presence around the area.

Source: Xinhua
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