DEIR ISTIYA, West Bank, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A mosque in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank was partly set on fire on Wednesday, in what Palestinian residents said was an attack by Jewish settlers living nearby.
The main gate of the mosque in Deir Istiya village and some of the carpeting inside were charred by the blaze and graffiti in Hebrew was scrawled on an outside wall.
Israeli soldiers entered the village on Wednesday morning and were investigating.
The incident comes at a delicate time in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were revived last year and are set to expire in April. The United States is trying, with little obvious success, to narrow gaps between the two sides.
A series of vandalism acts involving arson and writing graffiti on homes - apparently perpetrated by settlers - in Palestinian villages in recent weeks has raised tensions.
Last year, the Israeli Defence Ministry announced a crackdown on settler vandals, saying they were tantamount to terrorists and their attacks could fan sectarian violence.
Israel cites Biblical and historical claims to the West Bank, but the United Nations considers its settlements illegal and most world powers say they are an obstacle to peace.
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, both captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, as part of their future state, and envision a full withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and settlers. (Reporting by Abed Qusini, Writing By Noah Browning; Editing by Crispian Balmer)
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