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Mosque torching in Israel: Could it spark Arab Spring-style protests?

Today's mosque torching in northern Israel prompted clashes between police and Arab citizens, raising fears of an intifada inspired by the Arab Spring.

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A resident stands inside a burnt mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangaria in northern Israel on Oct. 3. The mosque was set on fire and graffiti sprayed on its walls overnight on Monday, locals said, in an attack blamed on Jewish extremists.

Ancho Gosh/JINI/Reuters

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A mosque was torched in northern Israel early Monday, prompting a clash between police who fired tear gas canisters and hundreds of Arab citizens of Israel who threw stones and briefly closed down a highway.

The incident, seen as part of an ongoing campaign of Jewish vigilantism, underscores fears by Israeli officials that such attacks could spark Arab Spring-style protests among Palestinians.

In recent years, Jewish extremists have vandalized Palestinian villages in the West Bank in retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks or Israeli government demolition of illegal Jewish outposts. Such extremists regard Israel’s government and some of its security forces as collaborators with the Palestinians to uproot Jews from biblical lands.

In the runup to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations last month, Israeli security authorities expressed concern that Jewish vigilantism could stoke Arab anger and lead to a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Today's targeting of a mosque in the Bedouin town of Tuba Zangariya marks the first time that such "price-tag" vigilantism has been used inside Israel proper, signaling a potential widening of violence.

"The price-tag tactic is employed so far by a very small part of the settlers in the territories, but the fact they are small in number doesn’t mean they are insignificant. Violence can escalate quickly," says Ofer Zalzburg, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

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