As the start of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority approaches, sources inside occupied Palestine have confirmed that two mosques have been attacked in the past 24 hours. The Israeli army used bulldozers to demolish the mosque in Aldheaney, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning [4 May]. The mosque was abandoned some time ago after the Israelis demolished all of the homes around it. Meanwhile, the main mosque in the village of Albon Asharkiya, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, has been attacked by Jewish settlers and set on fire. Eyewitnesses saw settlers fleeing the scene after starting the fire, which destroyed large parts of the main building at about 3am today [4 May].
The chairman of the council in Albon Asharkiya, Jamal Daraghmeh, said that witnesses heard cars approaching the mosque. “There are three illegal settlements near the village; Ailla, Pune and Shiloh,” said Mr. Daraghmeh. “More than 30% of the land belonging to people in the village has been seized by the Israelis,” he added. The settlers set fire to copies of the Qur’an and the mosque’s curtains before fleeing back to their settlements.
The Governor of Nablus, Jibril al-Bakri, said, “All indications and preliminary investigations confirm that Israeli settlers were responsible for burning the mosque.” According to Mr. Al-Bakri, “The Palestinian Authority received warnings on Monday morning from the Israeli government that settlers from Shilo may attack local Palestinians because of the eviction of five families from illegal homes in the settlement by the Israeli army.” He accused the settlers of “having plans to assault Palestinians and destroy their properties, including the burning of mosques” before adding that the town of Albon Asharkiya has been targeted by settlers many times, during which they have “burnt fields and cut down trees”.
This is the third mosque to be attacked by settlers in the West Bank since December, when settlers from Taffoh settlement set fire to a mosque in Yasuf, destroying Qur’ans and other religious books. Hawara mosque has also been attacked recently.