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Jewish extremists vandalize Jerusalem church

May 9, 2014 2:29 P.M. (Updated: May 11, 2014 6:50 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Vandals sprayed anti-Christian graffiti on a Jerusalem church on Friday, despite Israeli police stepping up security around religious sites ahead of a visit by Pope Francis later this month.

"Price tag... King David for the Jews... Jesus is garbage" was spray-painted in Hebrew on the wall of St George's, a Romanian Orthodox church near an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

Israeli police said that "Death to Arabs" was found written on a house in the Old City in East Jerusalem, and swastikas were scrawled on the wall of a west Jerusalem apartment.

The Roman Catholic church has demanded Israeli action after Hebrew graffiti reading "Death to Arabs and Christians and to everyone who hates Israel" was daubed on its Notre Dame complex in Jerusalem on Monday.

"The bishops are very concerned about the lack of security and lack of responsiveness from the political sector, and fear an escalation of violence," the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said.

The attacks on Christian property come amid a rise in anti-Palestinian hate crimes. Israeli ministers held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, pledging to enforce harsh measures against perpetrators.

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.

Israeli media on Friday reported that police and Shin Bet feared Jewish right-wing extremists would try to attract media attention by attacking Christian sites ahead of the Pope's visit to the region, scheduled to begin on May 24 in Jordan.

He is then due to spend two days in the Holy Land from May 25.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld highlighted a boosted security presence around sensitive Christian sites.

"We've already stepped up security in different sites, in different areas, and obviously will continue to do so," he said.

Rosenfeld said police did not connect the increase in attacks on Christian sites with the upcoming papal visit.

The perpetrators of violence against Palestinian communities are rarely prosecuted. There are hundreds of racist attacks against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank every year.
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