Middle East

Jesus 'miracle church': Jewish extremist found guilty of arson

Priest inspects the damage at a room located on the complex of the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the shores on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, on June 18, 2015, Image copyright AFP
Image caption The church buildings were set alight in June 2015

A Jewish extremist has been convicted of setting fire to a church in Israel which Christians believe is built at the site of one of Jesus' miracles.

Yinon Reuveni set light to the Roman Catholic church at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in 2015, the court found.

It is said to be where Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, also known as the Feeding of the 5,000.

The attack caused extensive damage to a shop and other buildings in the complex at the Church of the Multiplication.

"Idols will be cast out or destroyed" was found written in Hebrew on the walls.

However, the blaze did not destroy the 5th Century mosaic floors, a key feature of the otherwise modern church built at the site.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The church reopened in February 2017, following an eight month renovation

The indictment against Reuveni, 22, says he set fire to the church due to his hostility towards Christianity. Local media reported he was connected to a number of other hate crimes, and had linked up with other extremists before attacking the church.

Nazareth District Court found him guilty of arson on Monday.

A second man, Yehuda Asraf, 21, was acquitted of the charges against him.

A third suspect is still awaiting trial, the Times of Israel reported.

Prosecutor Avi Pasternak said the verdict made a strong statement on Jewish terrorism, but defence lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir accused judges of ignoring the facts and vowed to appeal, according to Haaretz.

The church was officially reopened in February 2017 following eight months of renovation work which cost around $1m (£800,000).

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