On Sunday, vandals attacked an ancient mosque in Ma’alul village near Nazareth, inside Israel. They removed the stones and spray-painted slogans of the Israeli settler movement on the walls. According to the al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, the stones were removed and stolen from the mosque’s southern wall. Members of the Foundation, who visited the mosque, told the Ma’alul Heritage Association chief, Ali as-Salih, that they were willing to pay for renovations to repair the damage.

Since the attack was committed, members of different organizations have condemned the act of vandalism. Hajj Sami Rizqallah Abu Mukh, the head of the al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, visited the site and described the assault on the mosque as ‘a serious crime.’ In addition he said, ‘It was obvious that sinful hands demolished the southern wall of the mosque and stole a large number of its stones.’

Referring to the act, Ma’an News reported that a spokesman for the Islamic Movement in Israel, Zahi Njeidat, said it was ‘carried out by cowardly owls of darkness … official Israeli attacks against holy places laid the ground for such crimes.’

Palestinians from the village and from the area around Nazareth also visited the mosque to see the damage.

Ma’alul village is located in the western part of Nazareth City. Most of its land is now owned by the Jewish National Fund, which seized Palestinian land when Israel was created in 1948. The only remaining ancient structures are two churches, a mosque and a Roman mausoleum.

According to Ma’an News, since December 2009, mosques across the West Bank and inside Israel have been the subjects of attack by vandals. In September 2010, a mosque in the Bedouin village of Ibtin, east of Haifa, was painted with graffiti.

The three slogans that were written on the walls read: ‘This structure is destined for demolition,’ ‘there will be a war over Judea and Samaria’ and ‘price tag.’ This last message is a well-known slogan of the Israeli settler movement, who claim that they are attacking Palestinian sites to ‘force them to pay the price’ for past attacks on Israeli civilians.

Israeli police have provided no indication that they plan to investigate the crime.