A 27-year-old resident of southern Israel was arrested in connection with “a violent incident” on Sunday at the church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem, the Israel Police announced.
The police said the suspect entered the church with an iron bar and that there were no injuries.
“We view violence of any kind with severity and will continue to act against incidents of violence in general and incidents of violence in holy places in particular, with a firm, uncompromising hand in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the Israel Police said in a statement.
The Greek Orthodox Church released a statement saying it “denounces the attempt to cause physical harm to Archbishop Joachim, who was leading the service, as well as the attack on one of the priests in the church.”
The attack came at the beginning of the period of Lent. The church released a statement calling for “international protection of holy sites.”
“Terrorist attacks, by radical Israeli groups, targeting churches, cemeteries, and Christian properties… have become almost a daily occurrence that evidently increases in intensity during Christian holidays,” it said.
AFP quoted Bilal Abu Nab, a vendor who works near the church, as saying that the attack was committed by two Jewish men, one wearing a yarmulke and the other wearing a tzitzit. He said a priest had been injured in the forehead, and police were called but arrived more than half an hour later.
The police statement did not mention a second assailant, their religious appearance, or any injuries.
Last month, a US tourist was apprehended after he vandalized a statue of Jesus at the Church of the Condemnation in Jerusalem.
In January, two Jewish teens were caught on video desecrating at least 30 gravesites in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage.A report in Le Monde claimed that there were five attacks against Christians, their places of worship, and their properties in Israel in the first five weeks of 2023. This compares to 13 such incidents in the whole of 2020 and nine in 2021, according to figures collected by the Jerusalem Inter-church Center and the Protecting Holy Land Christians campaign.