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Palestinians slam Israel over mosque demolition in occupied West Bank

Palestinian Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs condemns razing of mosque in Duma, calling it a 'clear challenge to the feelings of Muslims'
The ruins of the demolished Abu Saif mosque in Duma
A man sits amid the ruins of the demolished Abu Saif mosque in the West Bank town of Duma (MEE/Mosab Dawabsheh)

The Palestinian Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs has condemned Israel's demolition of a mosque in the occupied West Bank town of Duma, calling it a "clear attack on the holy sites and religious places for Muslims".

Israeli forces descended on the town, 25km south of Nablus, with a large bulldozer in the early hours of Thursday morning. There, they flattened the Abu Saif mosque, which has hosted worshippers for the past two years. 

Husam Abu al-Rub, undersecretary at the Ministry of Endowments, slammed the demolition, saying it "violates international and humanitarian norms".

"This act is a clear challenge to the feelings of Muslims, and it requires us to take a serious stand to prevent its recurrence and the expansion of this occupation that spares no opportunity to push the entire region into a religious war, in its continuous encroachment on our Islamic sanctities," he said in a statement.

Abu al-Rub called on the international community and religious institutions to prevent further "violations of our sanctities and places of worship".

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A worshipper prays at the site of the demolished mosque (MEE/Mosab Dawabsheh)
A worshipper prays at the site of the demolished mosque (MEE/Mosab Dawabsheh)

Under the 1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, was divided into three sections - Areas A, B and C.

The overwhelming majority of Duma falls under Area C, that is, it is entirely administered by Israel.

Israel, which maintains a settlement expansion policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, makes it impossible for Palestinians to get permits to build in East Jerusalem and Area C, which together make up 60 percent of the West Bank.

The policy has prompted the Palestinians to build without official papers, facing severe fines and the risk of demolition. It was unclear whether the mosque had been granted a construction permit.

Area C is home to more than 300,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are Bedouins and herding communities who predominantly live in tents, caravans and caves.

International law views East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank as occupied territories and considers all Israeli settlement-building there illegal.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of July, Israel had demolished 291 Palestinian homes and 130 humanitarian structures in the West Bank since January, displacing 592 people, 320 of them children. 

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