JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police said Friday they arrested a Jewish man after he poured out a “flammable liquid” inside a church near Jerusalem’s Old City, in what they described as a “criminal” incident.
The police did not provide further details about the motive, but past attacks on churches in the Holy Land have been blamed on Jewish extremists.
Friday’s incident took place at the Church of All Nations, a Catholic church built on the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christians believe Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of his followers, and arrested by the Romans before being crucified.
The Roman Catholic custodian in the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, condemned the incident and called for “a serious investigation.” He said it was no simple criminal attack but a “terrible, humiliating and intentional act.”
His statement said the attacker used a firebomb — a claim that could not immediately be reconciled with the police statement about the attacker pouring out a flammable liquid. The police also circulated a photograph of wooden pews with black stains on them.
A 2015 arson attack blamed on Jewish extremists caused extensive damage to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, a popular pilgrimage site on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.
Jewish extremists have targeted mosques, churches and dovish Israeli groups in recent years.