Israel views with utmost gravity any intent or action to attack religious sites in the State of Israel.
In the wake of an Israel Security Agency (ISA) and Israel Police investigation, five people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the 18 June 2015 arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee as well as in additional hate crimes.
That same day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed ISA Director Yoram Cohen to conduct a full and speedy investigation, noting: “This morning’s outrageous arson attack on a church is an attack on us all. In Israel, freedom of worship is one of our core values and is guaranteed under the law. Those responsible for this despicable crime will face the full force of the law. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society.” President Reuven Rivlin stated that “Israel, as a state and a society, is obligated to protect and preserve the holy sites, for all faiths. I can assure you that the relevant authorities will investigate this crime and make every effort to bring those responsible to justice.”
Indictments have been filed against two of the group (Yinon Reuveni and Yehuda Asraf); administrative steps will be taken against the other three.
The five are:
Yinon Reuveni – Born in 1995, resident of Ofakim. He has been served with injunctions barring him from Judea and Samaria several times due to violent activity against Arabs and their property, and due to information that indicated his suspected involvement in perpetrating several acts of arson against Palestinian property and religious sites in Judea and Samaria. He was recently investigated by Israel Police on suspicion of involvement in the February 2015 arson at Dormition Abbey on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem and served with an injunction barring him from Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria for six months.
Yehuda Asraf – Born in 1996, resident of Elad. He has lived for the past six months in various hilltop youth outposts.
Mordechai Meyer – Born in 1997, resident of Maaleh Adumim. He was recently served with an injunction barring him from Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem due to his suspected involvement in several incidents of arson against Palestinian property in Judea and Samaria. He was recently investigated by Israel Police on suspicion of involvement in the February 2015 arson at Dormition Abbey on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
Moshe Orbach – Born in 1991, resident of Bnei Brak. In recent years, he has lived in various hilltop youth outposts. He has been served with several injunctions barring him from Judea and Samaria due to his suspected involvement in inciting violent activity against Arabs and their property within the State of Israel.
John Doe – Born in 1998, resident of Ramle. In recent months, he has lived in various hilltop youth outposts. He has previously been served with an injunction barring him from Judea and Samaria due to his suspected involvement in violent activity against Arabs and their property and information that indicated his suspected involvement in acts of vandalism and arson against Arab-owned vehicles.
This group operates in the context of an ideological group composed of a limited number of hilltop youth activists. This group has operated since 2013 and holds to an extremist ideology that aspires to change the regime and bring about the redemption via various stages of action.
The group sought to hit "weak points" in the State of Israel in order to arose dialogue and win adherents. This group is led by an activist from Jerusalem who has recently lived in various hilltop youth outposts and who has been served with an administrative order barring him from Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem for one year due given the danger he poses. He currently resides in Safed.
The group began with mainly anti-Christian activity. To this end the Dir Rafat monastery was vandalized in April 2014. The group also tried (unsuccessfully) to disrupt the May 2014 visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
In the past year, the group began to commit more significant terrorist attacks of arson against inhabited Palestinian homes – on 23 November 2014 in Khirbet Abu Fellah and in December 2014 in A-Dirat in southern Judea.
In recent months group activists have focused on attacking Christian religious sites – Dormition Abbey in February 2015 and the Church of the Loaves and Fishes last month.
The anti-Christian dialogue has strengthened in recent months among group activists. The blog of the head of the group on the "Jewish Voice" site on May 20 of this year sought to encourage attacks on Christian religious sites – "Only those who deny idolatry and fight against Christianity and aspire to remove the churches from the Holy Land – they are called Jews."
On 17 April of this year the Israel Police thwarted an group operational group en route to carry out an arson attack. Indictments were filed against David Chai Hasdai, Hanan Froman and a minor.
The ISA and the Israel Police view with utmost gravity any intent or action to attack religious sites in the State of Israel and will work together in order to foil the activity of the aforesaid group.