International

Jerusalem church building torched in apparent hate crime

JERUSALEM: Suspected Jewish extremists set fire to a church-owned building in Jerusalem overnight, police said Thursday, in the second nationalistic attack in the Holy Land in recent days.

The vandals torched an annexe of a Greek Orthodox seminary just outside the walls of the Old City and scrawled “graffiti insulting Jesus”, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, describing it as a “nationalist” attack.

There were no casualties and the fire was put out before causing significant damage, she added.

Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat condemned the attack.

“There is no room for such deplorable activity in Jerusalem. We must eradicate this behaviour and bring those responsible to justice,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, a mosque near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank was set alight and anti-Arab slogans in Hebrew sprayed on a nearby wall.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat described the perpetrators of both incidents as “terrorists”, blaming Israel’s government for inciting the attacks by continuing its “illegal occupation and colonisation (of the Palestinian territories) based on distorted religious claims.”

The United Nations has warned such incidents could “inflame an already volatile environment.”

Both incidents bore the hallmarks of so-called “price tag” attacks — a euphemism for nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists, which generally target Palestinians or Arab Israelis but have increasingly also hit Christian and Muslim places of worship.

The perpetrators of such attacks are rarely found or convicted. -AFP

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