Israeli police arrested three Jewish settlers on Monday whom they suspect of arson and other attacks on Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank.
At a time of heightened diplomatic tension over claims to the land, the men were found carrying fuel and spikes shortly after a car was torched in a Palestinian village near Hebron. A police spokesman said they had appeared to be about to conduct a second attack in another village nearby when they were detained.
Television footage of a burnt car in the village of Dahariya also showed a wall nearby daubed with the Hebrew words “price tag” – a slogan used by radical settlers and denoting reprisals for steps taken by Palestinians, or by the Israeli government, which they consider against their interests.
Police see “a strong possibility they (the suspects) were involved in previous incidents with a nationalistic motive in the past couple of months”, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “They were arrested before entering another Palestinian village, where we suspected they were going to carry out another attack.”
The three, all aged in their 20s, have yet to be charged and were remanded in custody for a week.
It was unclear whether the attack on the car was related to last week’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly which accorded Palestine the status of “non-member state”. Israel has since announced plans for new settlement building and has rejected calls from the United States and Europe for restraint.
Palestinians and many Western powers say settlement building is making a Palestinian state less viable and damaging chances of a durable peace settlement. Israel says borders must be drawn up during the negotiations, which have been stalled since 2010.