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Catholic church in Israel hit by possible arson attack

A church at a site revered by Christians was damaged in a fire. Police believe that the church may have been targeted by extremists.

A Catholic church built on the spot in Israel where Jesus is said to have performed the miracle of loaves and fish was damaged in a fire on Thursday, in what Israeli police have said could have been a deliberate arson attack by Jewish extremists.

The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish is located on the Sea of Galilee in the Tabgha area of northern Israel. Every year thousands of visitors of all faiths come to visit the site, which has a modern church built on the remains of a fifth-century Byzantine church.

"During the night a fire broke out at the Tabgha church," said a police statement, "Graffiti in Hebrew was found on the wall of the church."

The graffiti was part of a Jewish prayer that decries idol worship.

Israel Brandanschlag deutsches Benediktinerkloster Tabgha

Red graffiti reads "idols will be cast out" in Hebrew.

"There's a strong possibility that this wasn't an accident," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Last year, the same church was attacked by a group of mostly Jewish youth who pelted worshipers in the church's outdoor prayer space with stones, destroyed a cross, and threw benches into the lake.

Father Matthias Karl, a German monk from the church, said that a small shop, an office for pilgrims and a meeting room were "totally destroyed," but that "the church, thank God, is in good condition."

es/jil (AP, AFP)

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