Israeli police made several arrests Sunday in connection with last month’s arson at the historic Church of Multiplication, authorities said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said there was no immediate confirmation of the number of people arrested, but the investigation was led by the Israeli police unit that deals with crimes committed by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Christians believe the Church of the Multiplication, in Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, is where Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 of his followers.
On June 18, a fire consumed much of the interior of the monastery and destroyed the roof, leaving only charred remains of Bibles and other objects. The part of the church housing the rock where Jesus is said to have put the five loaves and two fish wasn’t damaged in the fire.
Graffiti scrawled in red Hebrew lettering on a wall outside the Roman Catholic church read, “Idols will have their heads cut off.”
Police detained 16 Jewish settlers — all minors — at the time for questioning, but later released them.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has denounced the attack.
“The State of Israel safeguards the freedom of worship of all faiths and completely rejects any and all attempts to harm it,” Hotovely said.
The Church of the Multiplication is run by Benedictine monks, and the area is one of the most significant in Christianity.
The site of the church is near the places where the New Testament says Jesus walked on water and delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Numerous places of worship in the region have been attacked in recent years. Police have said they suspect right-wing Jewish extremists of torching and defacing mosques and churches in the past.
Palestinians say not enough is being done to catch those behind the attacks.
“Churches and Mosques in all of historic Palestine continue to be targeted by Israeli terrorists who enjoy full impunity from their State,” the Palestine Liberation Organization said last month.