Palestinians from the village of Jabaa look at damage at a mosque which was partially set on fire overnight on June 19, 2012.

Story highlights

Villagers woke to the sound of people screaming, the village council head says

He says Israeli settlers attacked the mosque and wrote graffiti on it

The attack comes as Israel prepares to remove settlers from an illegal outpost

Attacks like this tend to increase when Israel is forcing settlers to move

Jerusalem CNN  — 

A Palestinian mosque in the village of Jabaa was vandalized and partially set on fire early Tuesday morning, Israeli and Palestinian officials said, with both sides suspecting Israeli settlers of the attack.

“We woke up to the sound of people screaming in the village to save the mosque from being torched,” said Abdallah Sharaf, head of the village council. The village is east of Ramallah in the West Bank.

“A group of settlers arrived at the village of Jabaa around 1:30 a.m. and broke one of the windows of the mosque and threw flammable material, burning a carpet and door and window. Also the settlers wrote graffiti reading ‘Ulpana’ and ‘the war has started’, ” Sharaf said and adding “We condemn such a criminal act.”

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“Ulpana” is an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank that is slated to be evacuated early next month, after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the outpost was built on Palestinian private land.

Israeli police called the incident a criminal and nationalistic incident.

Authorities believe there is a strong possibility the incident was a “price tag” attack, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told CNN.

“Price tag” is a term frequently used to describe acts of vandalism by radical Israeli settlers exacting a “price” against Palestinian targets or Israeli security forces in response to actions by the Israeli government.

“We strongly believe that this was a criminal incident with nationalistic motives,” Rosenfeld said.

“Forensics arrived at the scene. Graffiti was written on the walls and there was damage inside the mosque. Our investigation is continuing,” he said, adding that no arrests had been made.

There has been dozens of such attacks on Palestinian targets in the past two years. They tend to increase when the Israeli government is about to evacuate or demolish an illegal Israeli settlement or illegal outposts.

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