PM condemns swastika vandalism of Commonwealth military cemetery in Haifa
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PM condemns swastika vandalism of Commonwealth military cemetery in Haifa

Netanyahu says Israel owes ‘historical debt’ to fallen soldiers whose tombstones were desecrated, vows to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice

Vandalized graves in a Commonwealth military cemetery in Haifa, October 11, 2019. (Israel police)
Vandalized graves in a Commonwealth military cemetery in Haifa, October 11, 2019. (Israel police)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement Saturday night condemning the desecration a day earlier of dozens of tombstones in a Haifa cemetery for Commonwealth casualties of World War I.

“The desecration of the graves of the World War I heroes in Haifa is an abhorrent crime. We owe these soldiers a historical debt for the liberation of the Land of Israel from Ottoman rule,” said Netanyahu. “We are doing everything necessary to find those responsible and bring them to justice.”

Netanyahu’s comments followed similar ones from the Foreign Ministry, as well as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“This is disgusting, appalling and nothing other than just hate filled desecration of our own diggers, our light horsemen and it is terribly upsetting,” Morrison told reporters while in Fiji.

The Commonwealth of Nations includes the UK and dozens of former colonies of the British Empire, as well as Australia and Canada.

Police were investigating the Friday incident at the Haifa War Cemetery as a hate crime.

Over 50 graves were daubed with swastikas. Three of them were smashed completely. Tombstones were also vandalized in an adjacent Templar cemetery.

The Commonwealth military cemetery in the city’s Yafo Street was temporarily closed to visitors.

Vandalized graves in a Commonwealth military cemetery in Haifa, October 11, 2019. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

The cemetery houses the graves of 305 soldiers who fought in the region in World War I, 86 of whom are unidentified, alongside 36 casualties of World War II, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Most of the soldiers died in area hospitals, and some were killed on the battlefield.

“CWGC is grateful for all the messages of support and would like to reassure our public that we will never allow such shameful acts to detract from our commemoration of the war dead,” it said in a statement, adding that staff were on site removing the graffiti.

In a separate incident, around 35 tombstones were damaged on Friday in a cemetery in the northern Israeli town of Nof Hagalil, formerly known as Nazareth Illit, in an apparent act of vandalism.

Most of the damaged tombstones were in a Jewish section of the cemetery, and some in a non-Jewish section.

Investigators gathered evidence at the scene and launched an investigation, the police said in a statement.

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