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.
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 attacks on Christian property come amid a rise in anti-Arab property crimes. Israeli ministers held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, pledging to enforce harsh measures against perpetrators.
Although police have made scores of arrests, there have been nearly no successful prosecutions for price tag attacks, and the government has come up under mounting pressure to authorise the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.
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.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld highlighted a boosted security presence around sensitive Christian sites.
Rosenfeld said police did not connect the increase in attacks on Christian sites with the upcoming papal visit.