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Mosque fire in Israel blamed on Jewish extremists

Oct 3, 2011, 1:04 a.m.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A mosque in a Bedouin village in northern Israel was set on fire and graffiti sprayed on its walls overnight on Monday, locals said, in an attack blamed on Jewish extremists.

"The whole mosque was burned -- the carpet, the books, the Korans, all burned," the village imam, Fuad Zangariya, told Army Radio. Zanagariya said the words "Palmer" and "revenge" were sprayed on the entrance to the mosque.

Last week police said a car crash on September 23 which killed Asher Palmer, a Jewish settler, and his one-year-old-son was caused by Palestinians who threw stones at the car.

Israel police said the mosque was badly damaged, its carpets and interior burned and the Hebrew words "Price Tag" sprayed on its wall. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying it offended the nation's core values.

For some hardline Jewish settlers, the "Price Tag" slogan signifies payback for any Israeli curbs on settlement in the West Bank, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and where Palestinians hope to create an independent state.

Two mosques were vandalized in the territory last month following partial demolitions by the Israeli army in an unauthorized Jewish settlement.

"This incident has 'Price Tag' characteristics and we have set up a special task force to investigate it," Ran Levi, head of a local police station, told Army Radio.

Jamal Zangriya, a resident of the village, told Israel Radio: "We believe extremists from outside the village did it," blaming rabbis from the nearby town of Safed for incitement against Arabs, which he said may have led to the incident.

Netanyahu's office said the prime minister was outraged when he saw pictures of the damage. "This act goes against the highest values of Israel, freedom of religion and religious practice," it said in a statement.

Police said they had beefed up their presence in the area to prevent acts of retaliation.

Arabs make up around 20 percent of Israel's population, the vast majority of them Muslim.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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