Israel’s Prime Minister has condemned a suspected religiously motivated arson attack as being ‘outrageous’ and ‘an attack on us all.’
A police investigation is being conducted after a fire gutted part of the Church of Loaves and Fishes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.
The church, which Christians believe is where Jesus performed the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, is a traditional site of pilgrimage in the Holy Land.
“The shocking arson of the church is an attack on all of us,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“Israel’s freedom of religion is a cornerstone of our values and it is anchored in the law. We will mete out justice to those responsible for this atrocious act. We have no room for hatred and intolerance in our society.”
President Reuven Rivlin told Gregory Collins, head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel: “I was shocked and saddened to learn this morning of the fire at the Church at Tabgha,” adding every effort should be made “to bring those responsible to justice.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said investigators were at the site and Hebrew graffiti had been found, which led police and fire service investigators to suspect that the fire had been set deliberately.
“Firefighters arrived at the scene at around 3.30 a.m. and it was put out, but extensive damage was caused to the church both inside and out and Hebrew graffiti was found, which has led to suspicions that the fire might have been caused deliberately,” Rosenfeld said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely condemned Thursday’s attack. She defended Israel, saying the nation “respects freedom of religion,” and expressed her confidence that the police will bring justice to the case.
“I am sure that the police force will do everything in its power to arrest those responsible, and to prevent similar attacks in the future,” she said.
The Roman Catholic church is a modern church was constructed in the 1980s on the remains of a fifth-century Byzantine church in Tabgha on the shore of the Kinneret in northern Israel. It is overseen by the Benedictine Order.