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Israeli Police Investigate String of Religious Site Vandalism

“despicable acts that disgrace us..."

Two Arab cemeteries in Jaffa were struck over the weekend by vandals, who left the spray-painted messages “Death to Arabs” and “Price Tag” on graves. Jaffa is on the southern tip of Tel Aviv where Jews and Arabs generally live together peacefully.

Israeli police have launched an investigation and are vowing to apprehend the perpetrators. Officials are not certain if this incident is linked to a string of vandalism acts where the words “Price Tag” have been spray-painted at the scene or if it is the of work of fans from a rival soccer team, due to soccer-related graffiti phrases.

Determined to act against perpetrators "to the fullest extent of the law," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is "not prepared to tolerate any vandalism, especially that directed against religious sensitivities":

"Our tolerance is toward religious sensitivities and our need to continue living together in coexistence and mutual respect, without violence, in tranquility and peace. Our intolerance is directed toward those who oppose these practices and this way of life."

President Shimon Peres called the attack on Jaffa’s Muslim and Christian cemeteries “despicable acts that disgrace us and contradict the moral values of Israeli society.”

Ynet reports some 150 Arabs and Jews gathered on Jaffa's main street Saturday night to condemn the vandalism and urge a swift police investigation.

In what may be a retaliatory act, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue in Jaffa, setting a fire, also on Saturday night. Arutz Sheva reports the building was lightly damaged.

The vandalism comes just days after a mosque was torched in northern Israel, setting off protests and clashes with police. Graffiti spray-painted on the mosque’s walls suggested Jewish radicals were involved. That same day, Israeli President Shimon Peres toured the mosque and condemned the heinous act.

On Wednesday night, spray-painted swastikas and graffiti were found at Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank town of Nablus under Palestinian Authority control. Palestinian Authority officials have not yet condemned the incident, nor has its official news agency, Wafa, reported on it.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman said in a statement:

"Just this week, Israeli political, religious and social leaders roundly expressed outrage and condemnation at the heinous desecration of a mosque in northern Israel…It is important that the Palestinian leadership make clear that they will seriously investigate this [Joseph’s Tomb] incident and hold the perpetrators accountable. They must also make clear that these types of actions are unacceptable, and have no place in Palestinian society."

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Joseph’s Tomb was placed under Israeli control, but the Israeli Defense Forces withdrew from the site when the second Intifada uprising began, at which time Palestinians attacked the site with pick-axes and burned it.

The tomb’s restoration was recently completed.

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