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Police: Palestinian graves vandalized in Jaffa

Oct. 8, 2011 2:09 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 10, 2011 11:45 A.M.)
JAFFA, Israel (Ma'an) -- Vandals defaced graves in two cemeteries, one Muslim and the other Christian, with anti-Arab graffiti in Jaffa south of Tel Aviv, Israeli police said Saturday.

The Islamic cemetery al-Kazakhana and nearby Christian Orthodox cemetery in the town were broken into at night, locals told reporters. A website called Yaffa48 posted photos of what it identified as the graves.

"Death to Arabs" and other racist slogans were daubed on graves, they said, and gravestones were smashed. Other graffiti alluded to a football fan club in Haifa.

The president of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa Sheikh Ahmad Abu Ajwa slammed the attack, calling it an attempt to intimidate Palestinian residents of Jaffa.

Arab Knesset member Ibrahim Sarsour accused Israeli authorities of failing to stop extremist attacks, the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA reported.

"The Israeli government was not making any effort to stop these racist attacks against Palestinians, rather it provides extremists protection," he told the site.

Abu Awja called for local officials to hold an emergency meeting to discuss recent attacks on Palestinians in Israel.

President Shimon Peres in a statement denounced what he called "this criminal profanity which damages our honor and is contrary to the moral values of Israeli society."

Police spokeswoman Luba Smari told AFP on Saturday that an inquiry has been launched into the Jaffa incidents, adding that the "graffiti was removed" as soon as it was discovered by the authorities.

On Sunday, a mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangaria in northern Israel was torched allegedly by Jewish extremists, and Israeli police detained an 18-year-old in connection with the attack.

Police said they had set up a special task force to deal with the "price taggers," Reuters reported, a reference to attacks on Palestinians by Israelis, usually settlers in the West Bank, in revenge for policies they oppose.

In 2005 a Jewish couple was charged for throwing a pig's head into a Tel Aviv mosque in an attempt to derail Israel's then pullout from the Gaza Strip which went ahead in August of that year.

In January this year, the al-Aqsa Foundation said 20 graves in the historic Mamilla cemetery in West Jerusalem were damaged by Jewish extremists.

Around 20 percent, or 1.3 million people, of Israel's population are of Palestinian origin.

They are largely the descendants of Palestinians that managed to remain during the 1948 war, when an estimated 700,000 were expelled from or fled their homes during fighting that would see the establishment of the state of Israel.

Rights groups say that Israelis of Palestinian origin face discrimination in employment, education and public funding within Israel.
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