DEIR ISTIYA, Palestinian Territories, (AFP) — Three Palestinian cars were set alight overnight in a village in the northern West Bank, a local official and police said in what appeared to be the latest “price tag” attack.
The incident took place in Deir Istiya village, 15 kilometres (nine miles) southwest of Nablus and sandwiched between the Ariel settlement bloc and the Karnei Shomron bloc.
“Three settlers came in a red car with Israeli plates at around 1:40 am and wrote ‘price tag’ on the wall of the mosque,” Nathmi Salman Abu Nawwab, head of the village council told AFP, saying the incident had been witnessed by several villagers.
“They poured liquid on the cars and set them alight then they quickly drove off on a road heading towards Immanuel,” he said, referring to a settlement which lies north of the village.
He said Deir Istiya was “surrounded by nine settlements” and had been targeted several times, with the attackers believed to be local settlers.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said investigators were treating it as “a criminal incident with nationalist motives” in reference to a “price tag” attack.
“Price tag” is a euphemism for revenge hate crimes by Israeli extremists, which normally target Palestinians and Arabs, but have recently also been directed at left-wing activists and the army.
The attacks tend to involve the vandalism or destruction of Palestinian property, and have included multiple arson attacks on cars and mosques.
The perpetrators are rarely caught, although in recent months the security forces have increased efforts to clamp down on the phenomenon after an attack on an army base last month.
Last year, police say 65 indictments were handed to extremists suspected of assault or for causing property damage in so-called “price tag” attacks.
Despite the rising number of arson attacks, police say they are often unable to press charges given the lack of evidence.