Suspected Jewish extremists torched Jerusalem church

Suspected Jewish extremists torched Jerusalem church
An Israeli man looks at damage at a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem February 26, 2015. A fire damaged a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem on Thursday and "anti-Christian" graffiti was found at the scene in what Israeli police said could be a hate crime.

JERUSALEM - Suspected Jewish extremists set fire to a Greek Orthodox seminary building on Mount Zion in Jerusalem early Thursday, 24 hours after a mosque was torched in the West Bank.

The vandals torched an annexe of the seminary just outside the walls of the Old City and scrawled "graffiti insulting Jesus", police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, describing it as a "nationalist" attack.

Police said the assailants set light to the toilet and shower block at the seminary, causing damage but no injuries.

Outside, they daubed insulting slogans in Hebrew about Jesus.

The attack took place just outside the Old City walls on Mount Zion, close to Dormition Abbey, a Roman Catholic institution which was targeted by an arson attack during a visit by Pope Francis last May.

Following a police request, a gag order has been imposed on all details of the investigation which will remain in force until March 4.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the attack as "deplorable" and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.

On Wednesday, a mosque near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank was set alight and anti-Arab slogans in Hebrew sprayed on a nearby wall.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat denounced the perpetrators of both incidents as "terrorists", blaming Israel's government for inciting the attacks by continuing its "illegal occupation and colonisation based on distorted religious claims."

The United Nations has warned such incidents could "inflame an already volatile environment."

Both incidents bore the hallmarks of so-called "price tag" attacks -- a euphemism for nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists, which generally target Palestinians or Arab Israelis but have increasingly also hit Christian and Muslim places of worship.

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