More than 30 Christian graves were vandalized and desecrated in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Two men were caught on video breaking into the Protestant Christian Cemetery on Mount Zion, on the grounds of Jerusalem University College, where they broke crosses off graves, knocked over headstones and destroyed grave sites. Damage to the graves was not discovered until Tuesday, and The BBC reports that Jewish extremists have been blamed for the attack.
Israeli police are working with Jerusalem University College on the investigation, Haaretz reports.
The land was reportedly purchased by Bishop Samuel Gabot in 1848 and is cared for by local Lutheran and Anglican communities, and those buries there range from prominent religious figures and members of the armed forces to scientists and politicians. Sky News reports that 73 of the graves belong to members of the Palestinian Police who died during World War II.
In a statement, The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem claimed that the graves of three Palestinian police members were among those attacked and called for the apprehension and prosecution of those responsible to the fullest extent of the law, including those which pertain to hate crimes.
“Many stone crosses were also the targets of the vandals, clearly indicating that these criminal acts were motivated by religious bigotry and hatred against Christians,” the statement reads.
Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum told journalists at the cemetery on Wednesday that “we are not only dismayed, but we are very much saddened” by the damage and indicated that hate speech and crimes against Christians have been on the rise in Israel recently, with increased reports of spitting at Christians and attacks on religious sites.
“This is only an indication that we are not in a place where people can tolerate each other or accept each other,” Naoum said. “We see more exclusion, more segregation, and that is what really grieves us in this city of Jerusalem.”
The Israel Foreign Ministry tweeted its condemnation of the attack, writing, “Since its establishment, the State of Israel has been committed to freedom of worship and religion for all and will continue this policy.”
Vandals previously attacked the cemetery in 2013. Four men were arrested after destroying 15 graves, according to Haaertz.