Jewish settlers desecrated mosques with anti-Muslim graffiti insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Israeli-occupied West Bank villages, Palestinian officials and witnesses said on Tuesday, in an escalation of anti-Palestinian violence that left 13 wounded.
"Mohammed is a pig" and "Death to Arabs," written in Hebrew were spray-painted on the walls of a mosque in Al Sawyeh village in the northern West Bank, local councilor Mohammed Abdelrahim said.
The perpetrators sprayed stars of David on the doors of several stores and slashed the tires of eight cars in a pre-dawn attack, Abdelrahim said.
Settlers also painted stars of David and the word "Hebron" on two mosques in the villages of Sinjel et Turmusayya, witnesses said.
The rioting broke out late Monday night as rumors spread that security forces were set to evict 100 Jewish settlers from a house the Israeli high court had ordered evacuated but which Israeli extremists have refused to leave.
At least 13 Palestinians were wounded and significant damage was caused to homes in Hebron as about 1,000 Israelis threw rocks, medics and witnesses said. The settlers also defaced a Muslim cemetery.
Young settlers, backed by right-wing, supporters hurled rocks for several hours at Palestinian homes and police, who showed uncharacteristic restraint when dealing with the settlers. Palestinians who throw rocks are regularly met with Israeli bullets during protests.
In the northern West Bank, dozens of settlers clashed with Palestinians and border police, and blocked roads in a show of support for the Israelis living in the controversial Hebron house.
The Israeli High Court on Nov. 16 ordered the settlers to leave the Hebron house in which they have lived since March 2007, but security forces have not enforced the order to date.
The settlers insist they have bought the house, but the court said the sale was not completed, though it has not determined who owns the building.
The settlers have been involved in several clashes since the eviction order was issued, and have desecrated a mosque and a Muslim cemetery.
With more than 170,000 Palestinian residents, Hebron is the largest city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank apart from annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
It has long been a flashpoint because of a settler enclave of around 600 hardline Jews in the heart of the city, and a further 6,500 settlers living in Kiryat Arba on the outskirts.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man during a raid searching for a “wanted man”.
Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, the police set up barricades at entry points, sparking huge traffic jams while radio stations urged Israelis not to visit the city until the alert was lifted.
It was the first time in seven months that an Israeli city was put under such tight security.
There were no details of what had caused the police to take such measures or any evidence of an alleged plot to attack the city.
(Alarabiya.net and agencies)