Israeli police on Thursday challenged Washington's inclusion of Jewish extremist attacks on Palestinians in a global terror report, saying such incidents could not be likened to militant attacks.
For the first time, the State Department's 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, published Wednesday, included a reference to a growing wave of racist anti-Palestinian vandalism, euphemistically known as "price tag" attacks.
"Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted," the report said, citing UN and NGO data.
But Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incidents were far from the global terror threats outlined in the report.
"There's no comparison whatsoever between criminal incidents with nationalistic motives and terrorist-related incidents," Rosenfeld told AFP.
The US report noted that "the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage.
"Violent extremists, including Israeli settlers, vandalised five mosques and three churches in Jerusalem and the West Bank."
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Defining price tag attacks as "property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement," the report said that over the year, the phenomenon had spread into Israel from the occupied West Bank.
It acknowledged that Israeli police had set up special units to pursue such cases and the government had designated groups responsible as "illegal associations," giving authorities broader powers to act against them.
"There are a number of ongoing investigations," Rosenfeld told AFP, saying that four settlers suspected of involvement in a racist graffiti attack on a mosque in northern Israel last month, were taken for questioning on Wednesday and later placed under house arrest.
Earlier this week, more racist graffiti was sprayed on the wall of a mosque in Fureidis near the northern port city of Haifa.
The town's name means "Paradise" in English.
"It is vandalism with nationalistic motives but these are not nationalistic attacks on Palestinians," Rosenfeld said.
"You cannot compare whatsoever between terrorist acts, the cold-blooded killing of Israelis, and... vandalism on that level."
Another recent attack targeted shrines at Tabgha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Roman Catholic officials said.
Church officials said a group of religious Jews in their early teens had damaged crosses and attacked clergy.