Israel holds suspects in settler deaths, mosque fire

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 06, 2011 6:59 PM
Israel holds suspects in settler deaths, mosque fire

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday it had arrested five Palestinians in the West Bank in connection with the stoning of a vehicle that overturned, killing a Jewish settler and his baby late last month.

Their arrest earlier this month was announced after Israel said it was holding a Jewish youth as a suspect in the retaliatory torching of a mosque on Monday in the Arab village of Tuba-Zangariya in northern Israel.

The September 23 deaths of settler Asher Palmer and his son are believed to have driven reprisal "price tag" attacks by pro-settler extremists since then. "Price tag" is what assailants have scrawled as graffiti at the scene of their attacks, alluding to the deaths of the settler father and baby.

Retaliation for the deaths has included the setting of a mosque on fire inside Israel and a stoning attack on Palestinian homes in a West Bank village, which triggered a Palestinian protest in which one person was shot dead by Israeli troops trying to quell it.

An Israeli security official said two Palestinians were suspected of stoning Palmer's car as he drove in the Hebron area, and that three others were suspected of having taken his gun after he was killed in an ensuing car crash.

The weapon has since been retrieved, said the official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

No more details were given about the suspects.

Israeli media said the suspect in the mosque arson was a resident of northern Israel who had been studying at a religious seminary at a settlement in the West Bank, territory Israel occupied in a 1967 war and which Palestinians want for a state.

Three other militant settlers were charged in a court in Jerusalem on Wednesday with planning to set fire to a West Bank mosque.

Mainstream leaders of the 500,000 settlers living in the West Bank have strongly condemned the mosque vandalism and urged the Israeli government to apprehend the perpetrators.

Tensions between settlers and some of the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank have risen alongside a Palestinian application for statehood recognition filed at the United Nations last month, a step Israel opposes.

Palestinians launched the statehood bid a year after peace talks collapsed over Israel's refusal to extend a partial moratorium on the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)