JERUSALEM - Suspected Jewish extremists vandalised a Muslim grave near the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa, police said, in the latest in a string of racist and religious attacks.
‘Graffiti was found sprawled on and around a grave in the Al-Qassam cemetery in Nesher’ north of Haifa, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement. The red spray-paint graffiti featured the Jewish star of David, the words ‘price tag’ and the names of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, she said.
A US global terror report on Wednesday for the first time included so-called ‘price tag’ attacks, politically motivated vandalism, often targeting Palestinians and their property, with their trademark Hebrew graffiti. The State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism cited UN figures of some ‘399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage’.
Vandals on Tuesday hit a mosque in the small Arab town of Fureidis, near Haifa, and there was also vandalism of Tabgha church on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fish. Church officials said a group of religious Jews in their early teens had damaged crosses there and attacked clergy.
President Shimon Peres apologised to the mayor of Fureidis in the name of Israel’s citizens, and said in remarks relayed by his office ‘we will do our utmost to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice’. The US report said that attacks by ‘extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted,’ in 2013.
Carried out by suspected Jewish extremists, thought to be predominantly teenagers, the attacks initially targeted Palestinians and their property. They have since grown in scope to include Christian sites and anyone opposed to Jewish settlements. Israel’s Islamic Movement condemned Friday’s attack on the grave in the cemetery named after Muslim leader Ezzedine al-Qassam, who led fighting against the British and French in mandate Palestine and was killed in a firefight in 1935. ‘This crime adds to a series of planned and thought-out terrorist acts,’ it said, suggesting the attackers may have intended to target the grave of Qassam himself.