Pro-settler vandals attack monastery near Jerusalem

JERUSALEM Tue Sep 4, 2012 4:38am EDT

A monk stands next to graffiti sprayed on a wall at the entrance to the Latrun Monastery near Jerusalem September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A monk stands next to graffiti sprayed on a wall at the entrance to the Latrun Monastery near Jerusalem September 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Vandals set fire to the doors of a Christian monastery near Jerusalem on Tuesday and daubed pro-settler graffiti on its walls in a possible retaliation for the eviction of families from an unauthorized outpost.

The name of the unauthorized Migron settlement, which was cleared following a court order on Sunday, was scrawled on the well known Latrun Monastery, alongside the words "Jesus is a monkey", said police.

Israeli security officials had said they were worried the eviction of 50 families from Migron, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, might provoke retaliation from a vigilante settler group known as "Price Tag".

The "Price Tag" name refers to retribution some Israeli settlers say they will exact for any attempt by their government to curb settlement in the occupied West Bank, an area Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

The settler group has targeted mosques and, less commonly, Christian churches in the past, seeing any non-Jewish religious sites as an intrusion.

An Israeli rabbi visiting the site called the attack an "ugly event".

"As a rabbi and as an Israeli citizen I am ashamed today and I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is not the first time that such an event takes place in Israel, " Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of Reform Judaism in Israel, told Reuters Television.

"We need to make sure that the other faiths, other communities feel secure here," Kariv added.

The Latrun Monastery is located on land Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed - a step that has never been recognized internationally.

Police said they had launched an investigation into the attack.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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