West Bank mosque torched in 'revenge attack'
Suspected extremists torched a West Bank mosque in an apparent revenge attack yesterday, as the Palestinian leader and the US top diplomat were to meet Jordan's King Abdullah over the spiralling violence.
Months of unrest have escalated in recent days, spreading from annexed east Jerusalem to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, and raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.
With the situation showing no signs of abating, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas was to hold talks in Amman with the king ahead of a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, officials said.
The meetings were expected to focus particularly on the tensions at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam where Jordan has custodial rights.
The international community has also expressed growing alarm over the deteriorating situation, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanding that both sides do everything possible "to avoid further exacerbating an already tense environment."
But the tit-for-tat violence showed no signs of abating with a pre-dawn arson attack on a mosque in Haughay village between Ramallah and Nablus, which Palestinian security officials blamed on extremist Jewish settlers.
The attack came two days after Palestinian knife attacks killed a settler in the southern Western Bank and an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv.
Village council head Faraj Nassan told AFP the fire began before dawn.
The mosque attack came as Palestinian anger was already running high after Israeli troops shot dead a 22-year-old protester in the southern West Bank on Tuesday.
Since the current round of violence began five months ago with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by militants, at least 17 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, according to an AFP count.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said it was too early to describe the wave of violence as a new Palestinian uprising, but warned the public to be alert for a possible further escalation of unrest.