'Kill the pagans' graffiti painted on iconic Jerusalem abbey
Anti-Christian graffiti has been sprayed on a wall of a Jerusalem abbey built where tradition says the mother of Jesus died, police said on Sunday, in an incident similar to previous acts blamed on far-right Jewish groups.
The graffiti written in Hebrew on an outside wall of the Dormition Abbey included phrases such as "kill the pagans" and "death to the Christian unbelievers, enemies of Israel," a spokesman for the Catholic Church in the Holy Land said.
Police said the graffiti had been discovered during a patrol and an investigation had been opened.
The Benedictine abbey is on Mount Zion across from East Jerusalem's Old City and next to the site where Christians believe Jesus's Last Supper occurred. Christian religious buildings have been associated with the site since the 5th century CE. The most recent edifice was completed in 1910, with the term "dormition" relating to the "falling asleep" of Mary.
It was previously attacked in 2014, when furniture and wooden crosses were burned.
"This time it amounts to a real call to murder Christians," said church spokesman Wadi Abu Nassar.
Vatican efforts to negotiate greater rights at the neighbouring Upper Room, where the Last Supper is believed to have occurred, have sparked opposition from nationalist and Orthodox Jews, who revere part of the building as the tomb of King David.
Pope Francis celebrated a mass at the Upper Room during a visit in 2014.
Far-right Jews have previously targeted Palestinians, Christians and even Israeli military property in "price-tag" attacks - a term that indicates there is a price to be paid for moves against Jewish settlers.
Earlier this month, two Israelis, including a minor, were charged over the 2014 incident at the Dormition Abbey as well as an arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication on the Sea of Galilee.
That church is located where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes.
The issue of rising Jewish far-right violence has been a hot topic in Israel in recent months. In July last year, Jewish ultra-nationalists are believed to have carried out a highly publicised arson attack on a Palestinian home in the West Bank, killing a toddler along with his mother and father.
On 3 January, an Israeli court charged two suspected Jewish ultra-nationalists over the firebombing, including the minor accused in the 2014 arson at the Dormition Abbey, but critics say that authorities are not doing enough to crack down and punish acts of violence, or groups and activists that promote violence against Palestinians and Christians.