Russia condemned an alleged attack by "Jewish radicals" earlier this week on the Church of the Assumption in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, with foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commenting that "there can be no excuse for such criminal attacks."
On Sunday, March 19, a suspect was arrested by Israel Police after attempting to attack worshippers in the church, believed by Christians to be the burial site of the Virgin Mary, with a steel pipe.
According to police, the 27-year-old suspect, from southern Israel, was apprehended after threatening to attack worshipers. No one was injured in the incident and no damage was caused to the church.
In its statement, the Russian foreign ministry noted an "increasing number of anti-Christian incidents recently," expressing hope that the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "will come out with an unequivocal statement on what happened and take exhaustive measures to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent such incidents in the future."
Was the attack carried out by two 'Jewish radicals'?
In its report of the incident, Agence France-Presse (AFP) claimed that the attack was carried out by two Jewish men, citing a local vendor who works near the church. However, in video footage of the incident shared online, it is clearly seen that only one attacker is present.
Further, the attacker did not appear to be wearing any religious Jewish apparel, as alleged by the reported witness in AFP's report.
Nonetheless, Russia noted that the situation regarding Jerusalem's holy sites "requires special attention" due to the coinciding Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays this year. Zakharova signed her statement by asking Israeli authorities to "show respect to representatives of all faiths in the Holy Land."
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate condemns 'heinous terror attack'
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem also issued a statement on the incident, which it called a "heinous terrorist attack at the hands of two Israeli radicals."
"This attack on the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem is an atrocious terrorist crime that cannot be justified under any circumstances," the Patriarchate wrote, further calling on the international community to "intervene immediately to provide security and protection to the Christians of Jerusalem and to support [the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan] and its protection of the Jerusalem holy sites."
The Patriarchate further claimed that "terrorist attacks by radical Israeli groups...have become almost a daily occurrence that evidently increases in intensity during Christian holidays."
Anti-Christian incidents in 2023
In January, two Jewish teenagers were recorded damaging 30 graves in a historic Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion.
The two teenage vandals have caused an estimated $100,000 in damages by shattering headstones, breaking crosses and generally desecrating the cemetery.