Jewish settlers blamed for West Bank mosque fire
Libban Al-Sharqia, West Bank: Palestinians accused Jewish settlers of setting fire to a mosque in the occupied West Bank Tuesday, an incident that raised tensions as a U.S. envoy began a mission to get peace talks going.
Israeli security officers were at the scene investigating the fire but have not determined its cause. Evidence was taken for forensic examination, an Israeli police spokesman said.
The mosque in the village of Libban al-Sharqia, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, was gutted overnight by the blaze that also burned holy books.
There were no witnesses to what Palestinian locals and officials assumed was another attack by Jewish settlers in the Nablus area. Settlers have also been suspected of vandalizing two other mosques and a cemetery in the last six months.
"We condemn this criminal act perpetrated by settlers," Nabil Abu Rdainah, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters. "This is a threat to all the efforts aimed at reviving the peace process."
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell arrived in Israel on Monday to try to get indirect peace talks under way. The Arab League approved the U.S.-mediated talks Saturday and they are expected to begin soon.
The Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip and is opposed to peace talks with Israel, said the mosque attack was "the first fruit of the pointless negotiations."
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