JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An arson attack damaged a Greek Orthodox seminary near Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday and anti-Christian graffiti in Hebrew at the scene suggested the incident was a hate crime.
Police said no one was injured by the blaze in a bathroom of the seminary, which came a day after part of a Palestinian mosque was set alight in the occupied West Bank. Both attacks were being investigated, they said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement the fire at the seminary was set deliberately and that “there is no room for such deplorable activity” in the city, which is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said in a statement that the fires at the Jerusalem seminary and the mosque near Bethlehem were the work of “Israeli terrorists ... protected by a government that claims exclusivity over this land”.
Mosques and churches have been vandalized in recent years, in so-called “price tag” attacks by suspected Jewish ultra-nationalists, who describe them as the price they will impose for any limits to Israeli settlement in occupied territory and Jewish religious supremacy over the Holy Land.
The graffiti on the seminary included the slogan “Zion will be redeemed” and an insult against Jesus and his mother Mary.
“We must eradicate this behavior and bring those responsible to justice,” Barkat said.
Critics have accused Israeli authorities, who have condemned “price tag” attacks, of being slow to catch and prosecute perpetrators.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Tom Heneghan