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Catholic Church demands Israel act to stop hate attacks

May 8, 2014 10:23 A.M. (Updated: May 9, 2014 7:14 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Roman Catholic church demanded Israeli action Wednesday after suspected Jewish extremists daubed hate graffiti on Vatican-owned offices in annexed East Jerusalem just two weeks before a papal visit.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the government planned to use detention without trial against the suspected extremists as it comes under mounting pressure over its failure to secure a single prosecution in an intensifying wave of hate crime.

Hebrew-language graffiti reading "Death to Arabs and Christians and those who hate Israel" was daubed over offices of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame center, a Vatican-owned complex opposite the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, on Monday, the Roman Catholic church said.

"The Notre Dame center is the property of the Holy See and this provocation comes two weeks before Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land and Jerusalem," the Latin patriarchate said on its website.

"Heads of the Churches in the Holy Land are preparing a series of actions aimed at informing local and international public opinion, and to make the authorities and law officials aware of their responsibilities."

Israeli police confirmed there had also been fresh hate attacks on Palestinian Muslim targets in northern Israel on Wednesday, the latest in a spate of such attacks mainly targeting Palestinian residential property but also targeting churches and mosques.

Israeli police caught a man as he punctured the tires of Palestinian-owned vehicles in the town of Yokneam, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

Investigators were seeking to establish if he was also responsible for vandalizing a Druze dentist's practice earlier in the day.

"Death to Arabs" and "Price Tag" were sprayed on his clinic windows, media said.

"Price tag" is a euphemism for the hate attacks by Jewish extremists.

The internal security minister said the government was preparing to allow the use of detention without charge against those suspected of such crimes, powers previously used almost exclusively against Palestinians.

"It is the government's intention to use administrative detention against those carrying out so-called 'price tag' attacks," Aharonovitch told army radio.

Administrative detention allows for suspects to be held without trial for up to six months. Such orders can be renewed indefinitely by court decision.

The US State Department's 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism included "price tag" attacks for the first time, citing UN figures of some "399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage."

Such attacks were "largely unprosecuted," it said.

Although police have made scores of arrests, there have been no successful prosecutions for price tag attacks and the government has come up under mounting pressure to authorize the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday she would back the idea of defining such crimes as "terrorism" after the US State Department for the first time included mention of price tag attacks in its global report on terror.

Livni and Aharonovitch held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with the attorney general and security chiefs to discuss the wave of attacks and how to combat them, a statement from Livni's office said.

It said that the ministers would brief the security cabinet on events in the past six months since the price tag phenomenon was officially outlawed and consider declaring those responsible as a terror group.

It said it would also mull increased use of restraining orders removing known suspects from their usual surroundings and arresting them if such orders were breached.
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