Israel

Palestinians Suspected of Torching West Bank Synagogue, Burning Torah Scrolls

The fire that engulfed a makeshift West Bank synagogue and destroyed Torah scrolls on Friday was caused by arson, likely by suspects from the nearby Palestinian town of Halhul, an Israeli investigation determined.

The scrolls were housed in a tent next to Karmei Tzur that was used as a synagogue and gathering place for local children. The synagogue was named after three Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel—who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in June 2014.

Residents said that the texts were gathered in a pile and set on fire. No injuries were reported in the incident, though the scrolls and tent were badly damaged.

“We are in the midst of a hard battle between those who seek coexistence and peace and those who want war and blood,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that the arson was the result of ongoing Palestinian incitement.

“The sight of the burned Torah scrolls in the Etzion bloc is heartrending,” said President Reuven Rivlin. “The assault on our people’s holy items hurts all the more when it is done at the place that commemorates Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali, who were murdered by a cruel hand… I am certain and confident that the security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.”

The suspected arson comes amid months of near-daily Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security officials, leading to 31 deaths over 300 injuries. Leading Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have been accused of inciting the violence and glorifying Palestinians terrorists who carry out attacks against Israelis.

Abbas consoled families of terrorists—including the relatives of a man who hacked a Jerusalem rabbi to death in October—during two separate meetings last week, calling the attackers “martyrs.” The first meeting took place hours after three Palestinian men gunned down an Israeli policewoman in Jerusalem. Fatah, the party led by Abbas, praised the shooters as “role models” on Wednesday.

The PA also joined the terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in honoring an Arab-Israeli gunman who killed three people in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day, saying he was “one of the most precious martyrs whose name has been inscribed with his pure blood that watered the soil of our free land.” Fatah similarly hailed the man, who died during a shootout with authorities, writing, “may Allah receive you in Heaven.”

[Photo: Karmei Tzur security department]