UN expresses shock at mosque burning in West Bank

The United Nations has asked Israel`s govt to bring the attackers to book.

New York: Shocked at a mosque being set ablaze in the West Bank, the United Nations has termed the incident as "unacceptable" and asked Israel`s government to bring the attackers to book.

Reacting to the incident yesterday, the UN special coordinator, Robert Serry, said the desecration of the place of worship was "unacceptable".

Vandals in southern West Bank spray-painted a mosque before torching it yesterday and Palestinians blamed Israeli settlers for the incident.

"It follows a number of attacks upon mosques as well as ongoing attacks on Palestinian civilians and property," Martin Nesirky, UN spokesperson told journalists here.

"The Special Coordinator`s office reminded the Israeli Government that the extremists responsible for such attacks must be brought to justice and the rule of law upheld," he added.

Palestinian witnesses said four people set fire to the mosque, in the village of Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem, in West Bank, according to CNN.

They sprayed "revenge" and "price tag" on the walls, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

Authorities were investigating whether Israeli settlers were behind the act but the Palestinian government has already assigned blame on the settlers.

"The government is very concerned because this is part of an ongoing escalation of violence by Israeli settlers. Our government holds the Israeli government responsible for not doing what it takes to prevent this escalating settler violence," said Ghassan Khattib, director of the Palestinian government media centre.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have condemned the attack and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

"Whoever did this is a terrorist in every sense of the word, and intended to hurt the chances for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians," Barak said.

In a phone call on Sunday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Netenyahu that Israel must not begin constructing illegal settlements that are detrimental to peace negotiations.

A moratorium on settlements expired on September 26, and despite the Palestinians threatening to back out of direct talks with Israel, Netanyahu has not yet extended the freeze policy.