The militiamen of the Islamic State (IS), who since last June have been controlling Mosul, have ravaged the oldest Christian cemetery of the city, publishing pictures of the destruction of the tombstones and crosses on the internet as documentary evidence of the campaign to "eradicate pagan symbols". The pictures of desecrated graves were published on several jihadist websites. The cemetery is located at the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, and also housed many tombs of Christian soldiers who died during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, April 15, in Galilee, the tombs of the cemetery in the village of Kufr Maronite Bir'im, not far from the border between Israel and Lebanon had been vandalized. Kufr Bir'im has been an abandoned village since 1948, when the Arab population was expelled by the offensive of the Israeli army. Last year, during his visit to Galilee, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai also visited the ghost village, promising to commit himself to encouraging the return of Christians expelled in 1948 and their descendants.
The Council of the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land condemned the devastation of the Christian cemetery in a statement, demanding that investigations are conducted seriously aiming to identify the perpetrators. Israeli police have opened an investigation against unknown persons on the desecration of the graves in the Maronite cemetery. In Israel, a long series of desecration and intimidation against monasteries, churches and Christian cemeteries have been carried out by groups of extremist Jewish settlers since February 2012.