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Jewish man detained after suspected arson attempt at East Jerusalem church

Suspect spills, lights flammable material in attempt to ignite a number of benches in Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives, before being detained

Burned benches in the Church of All Nations in East Jerusalem, where arson allegedly took place on Friday December 4, 2020 (Courtesy: Israel Police)
Burned benches in the Church of All Nations in East Jerusalem, where arson allegedly took place on Friday December 4, 2020 (Courtesy: Israel Police)

A Jerusalem resident has been detained after apparently attempting to set parts of an East Jerusalem church ablaze, police said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

The holy site, known as the Church of All Nations, lies on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. The church is close to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is thought to have been arrested before his crucifixion. Some Christians believe the shrine contains a piece of rock upon which Jesus prayed at the time.

The suspect, a 49-year-old resident of Gilo, spilled “flammable material” inside the church before setting it alight. Minor damage was caused to one of the benches in the church, the police said.

Police said the church’s security guard saw what was happening and detained the suspect until police arrived to take him.

In a video put out by Kan news, the suspect can be seen wearing a kippah and religious garment fringes typical of religiously observant Jews.

But police said that they did not believe the apparent arson was motivated by ideological or nationalist beliefs.

“An initial interrogation strengthened the suspicion that the background to the action is criminal,” police said.

Asked by The Times of Israel to elaborate, a spokesperson for Jerusalem Police said the suspect had been arrested for his role in criminal arson attempts before.

“This suspect has been involved in arson in all sorts of places, without any connection to Christians, religion and so on,” the spokesperson said.

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