JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Israel police arrested two teenagers Friday for allegedly vandalizing more than two dozen Christian graves at a historic Jerusalem cemetery earlier in the week.
The graves of Christian figures in a Protestant cemetery on the revered Mount Zion were found dislodged and torn from their foundations on Sunday, alarming the city’s Christian minority and drawing worldwide condemnation. The cemetery is over 170 years old and houses prominent members of the holy city’s armed forces and clergy.
For its part, the US embassy’s Palestinian affairs office said Thursday night that it was “concerned” about the attack on the religious site, which was the second in a decade.
“Vanalism by anyone against religious places is unacceptable,” the office said. “Jerusalem must be a city for all its inhabitants.”
Israeli police did not identify the suspects but said they were 18 and 14 years old and lived in central Israel. In security camera footage of the incident, youths wearing kippahs and tzitzit – knotted fringes that observant Jews typically wear – toppled crosses, vandalized tombstones and threw debris at graves.
The police described the act as “deliberate vandalism”, saying “any damage to religious institutions and sites is serious and harms the unique and delicate fabric of the city.” A Jerusalem court on Friday held a hearing to extend the detention period of two teenagers.
The Anglican Church in Jerusalem has condemned the desecration as the latest hate crime against the city’s Christian community amid decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.