By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli prosecutors filed terrorism-related charges on Wednesday against a Jewish settler accused of vandalising a mosque as part of anti-Palestinian rampages in the occupied West Bank last month that drew U.S. demands for accountability.

The spree of vandalism and arson by hundreds of settlers in several villages and towns followed the June 20 killing of four Israelis by Hamas gunmen. Many of the Palestinians who lost property were U.S. dual nationals.

The defendant, in his early 30s, was among “a large number (of) rioters” who threw objects at buildings in Orif village, wrecked furniture and windows in its mosque and ripped up and threw to the floor copies of the Koran, the indictment said.

Their goal was “to arouse fear or shock in the community through a grave blow to the sacrosanct,” it said, adding that authorities were unable to identify the others who took part.

The Honenu law firm representing the defendant said he denied the charges filed in Central District Court: disorderly conduct resulting in damage, the infliction of special damage and insulting religion, all designated as “acts of terrorism”.

Under Israeli law, the designation enables the court to double the penalty for any of the counts on which it convicts. Without the designation, the counts normally carry maximum prison terms of between three and 10 years.

The indictment provided to Reuters did not make clear what evidence will be brought against the defendant. It appeared to have redacted the names of three witnesses for the prosecution.

A Honenu spokesperson accused Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service of having wrongfully detained the defendant “instead of finding the people who killed Jews”.

Asked if that meant the defendant also denied being in Orif village during the ramage, the spokesperson declined comment.

The limited scale and pace of Israel’s law-enforcement effort against settlers have left Palestinians unmoved, almost a decade since the stalling of U.S.-sponsored efforts to achieve their statehood goals through negotiations.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the settler rampages as “state-sponsored terrorism”. Israel’s hard-right government includes ministers who chafe at attributing the term terrorism to settlers.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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