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Israeli Police Arrest Settlers Linked to Mosque Attack

  • Robert Berger

Israeli security forces have arrested a group of militant Jewish settlers for alleged vandalism, including a high-stakes attack on a Muslim holy place.

About 100 Israeli police and intelligence officers raided the radical Jewish settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank. Police say nine settlers were arrested for attacks on Palestinian property, including five linked to the torching of a mosque last month. The vandals burned prayer carpets and Muslim holy books at the mosque, located in a Palestinian village near the settlement.

Hebrew graffiti at the site said "Price Tag" - a slogan referring to the price of the Israeli government's partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. The settlers accuse the right-wing government of caving in to pressure from the United States, which sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

During the arrest raid, settlers accused police of using excessive and brutal force, including beatings, confiscation of cameras and damaging property. Michael Ben-Ari is a parliamentarian in the pro-settler National Union Party.

Ben-Ari told Israel Radio that "even if there are people who broke the law, there is a proper way to enforce the law." He said the actions of the police are reminiscent of the world's "darkest" regimes.

The mosque attack was broadly condemned by Israeli officials. Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau says the perpetrators should spend time in jail.

"Just to make it clear: In our society, they are moral and social lepers," said Uzi Landau.

Palestinians accuse Israeli authorities of turning a blind eye to settler violence, but it appears the mosque attack crossed a red line. Israeli officials say after synagogues were torched during the Holocaust, attacks on houses of worship will not be tolerated by the Jewish state.

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