A man suspected of shooting red paint at an Israeli flag on a major boulevard in Philadelphia was taken into custody Tuesday.
Laura Frank, an employee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said that she and her colleagues ran to the display of world flags after a friend called to tell them the Israeli flag was being vandalized.
“As we approached, we noticed a man with a paint gun shooting paint at the Israeli flag,” she told local news service WPVI. She took photos of the man and called police, who arrested him and found a paintball gun with red paint in a trash can close to the flag.
Mayor Jim Kenney confirmed a suspect was taken into custody and decried the vandalism as hateful.
“I’m very upset to learn of the desecration of the Israeli flag that hangs along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Hate and anti-Semitism have no place in the City of Philadelphia,” Kenney told CBS Philadelphia. “While I understand that emotions are running high and there are many viewpoints stemming from recent violence against Palestinians and other protesters in the Gaza Strip, it doesn’t warrant hateful acts of violence.”
The suspect’s name hasn’t been released, and WPVI reported that police are investigating the incident as a case of vandalism rather than a hate crime.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border Monday marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem that day.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said that as of Tuesday, 60 Palestinians were killed in the clashes, and more than 2,700 injured.
Israel says that at least 24 of those killed by Israeli troops on Monday were later identified as known members of terrorist organizations.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF says Hamas plans to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “carry out a massacre” of Israelis.