Arson attack on Church of Multiplication at Tabgh, Galilee

Church of Loaves and Fish in northern Israel extensively burned with major damage; Police investigating and searching for culprits

Destruction following arson attack (AFP)

Destruction following arson attack (AFP)

The Church of Multiplication at Tabgh (Church of Loaves and Fish) was subject to an arson attack overnight Wednesday into Thursday, the church nearly burnt to the ground.

The church, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is the church where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplication of loaves and fish, feeding over 5,000.

Before the fire

Before the fire

Police have opened an official investigation, a search for the culprits under way. At least 16 suspects were detained (all Yeshiva students) and released, a spokesman for Israeli police stating, “In an area near the church, 16 youths were detained for investigation in order to check their involvement in the incident before dawn.. All 16… were released, with no conditions attached, after being interviewed and giving statements”

Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfield reported on the actions to stop the fire, “Firefighters arrived at the scene at around 3:30 am (12:30 am GMT) and it was put out, but extensive damage was caused to the church both inside and out and Hebrew graffiti was found, which has led to suspicions that the fire might have been caused deliberately.”

The fire was reportedly started in numerous spots within the church, with graffiti outside written, “The false gods will be eliminated.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated on the attack “This is a cowardly and vile act that I vigorously condemn. We will not allow for someone to break the coexistence of the different religions and cultures in Israel. Any act against religious tolerance is hurting the most important value in the State of Israel, and we have zero patience for acts of this type.”