Israeli police arrest two over Jerusalem cemetery vandalism

Two teenagers are suspected of vandalising more than 30 graves at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem.

An aerial view shows vandalized tombstones at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery where acts of vandalism took place in Jerusalem
Tombstones were vandalised at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem [Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters]

Israeli police say they have arrested two people suspected of vandalising more than 30 graves in a Protestant cemetery in Jerusalem earlier this month.

Security footage circulated on social media showed one man of Orthodox Jewish appearance entering the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery last Sunday, pushing over a cross-shaped tombstone and smashing it with rocks with the help of a second man.

Police said extensive damage was caused to gravestones, calling it an “act of intentional vandalism and defacement”.

Two people, aged 14 and 18, were arrested and will be brought to court, according to the police statement released on Friday.

It did not identify the suspects, saying only they were residents of central Israel.

Jerusalem’s Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum called the desecration a “clear hate crime”.

“This act is not just cowardly but disgusting, and any person with blood through their veins would reject such behaviour,” Naoum told a news conference on Wednesday.

The commander of the Jerusalem police district, Superintendent Doron Turgeman, met church leaders and offered to help repair the damage.

The US Office of Palestinian Affairs said on Thursday it was “concerned” that the religious site was targeted again — the second time in a decade.

“Religious site vandalism by anyone is unacceptable,” the office said. “Jerusalem must be a city for all of its people.”

The incident took place just days after Israel swore in the most far-right government in the country’s history.

On Tuesday, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, in a move Palestinians called a “deliberate provocation”.

Jerusalem has sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The cemetery is more than 170 years old and houses prominent members of the armed forces and clergy in the holy city.

It is located in the proximity of the burial site of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed on May 11 by an Israeli sniper as she reported from the Jenin refugee camp.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies