Local residents of Al Mughayyir village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, reported Tuesday at dawn that fundamentalist settlers set the local mosque ablaze, and wrote racist graffiti on it walls, the Palestine Today reported.Witnesses stated that the Israeli settlers set fire to the mosque at approximately 3A.M. on Wednesday at dawn, before daubing the remains with racist slogans.

The attack on the al-Mughayyir village’s mosque has drawn condemnation from a wide variety of groups in Palestinian civil society. This is the third mosque that has been torched in as many years.

The arson attack is thought to be a ‘price-tag’ attack, carried out by nearby settlers in response to the demolition of ‘Alei Ayin’ illegal outpost by Israeli police recently. One piece of graffiti explicitly stated ‘price tag’ followed by ‘Alei Ayin’ in Hebrew.

The settlers are believed to have come from the Adi Gilad illegal settlement built on private Palestinian lands only three kilometres away from the mosque.

Resident Jihad Al Na’san told France Press that the residents went to the mosque to perform dawn prayers to find it burning down while the flames were streaming out of its windows.

Al Na’san added that the settlers dumped tires in the mosque and torched them, and that the Israeli army and the police arrived at the scene later on as the area is under Israeli military and security control.

Al Na’san further stated that the residents found racist graffiti written in Hebrew stating “We will raze this village” among other racist slurs against the Arabs and the Palestinians.

Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Minister of Religious Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, stated that the arson ‘indicates the magnitude of the aggression settlers unleash on holy places’. Rebuilding of the mosque is expected to begin immediately.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, visited the site of the destroyed mosque and said that, ‘[T]he attack on this mosque is part of a systematic policy aiming to flame the conflict and show disrespect to the religious and human values of others.’

The National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land has also strongly condemned the arson attack. Its president, Dimitri Diliani blamed the ongoing occupation and lack of law enforcement against settlers, noting, ‘[O]ccupation commits limitless crimes using different means including extremist settlers who are protected by Israeli forces. They do not show any respect to morals, religions, or laws when it comes to attacks against the Palestinian people.’

A month ago, the settlers torched a mosque near the northern West Bank city of Ramallah.

Last year, a group of fundamentalist Israeli settlers broke into a mosque in Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, and set it ablaze. Settlers also torched the main mosque of the al-Lubban al-Sharqiyya village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

In 2009, settlers torched a mosque in Yasuf Palestinian village, near the central West Bank city of Salfit.