Gravestones smashed in Belfast hate attack


Thirteen Jewish graves have been desecrated in Belfast's city cemetery in an attack which police are treating as a hate crime.

Police were alerted on Friday afternoon and Chief Inspector Norman Haslett described the vandalism as "particularly sickening".

Sinn Fein councillor Stevie Corr told local media that council staff had reported that eight youths, supported by a larger crowd, had smashed headstones with hammers and blocks. The attack was a "sad day" for Belfast and a Jewish community which "continues to make a most valuable contribution to the lifeblood of this city".

Catholic Bishop Noel Treanor condemned the vandalism as "a blemish on our society". It was "a tragedy that the long-present, beloved and treasured Jewish families of our community should suffer yet again such actions of disrespect, violence to the memory of their beloved dead and the regrettable outworking of a latent xenophobia".

Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said she was “outraged” at the attack.

She said: “We understand that 13 graves were damaged in this incident. In addition to damage to gravestones there were several attempts to enter the graves themselves.

“The Board of Deputies stands with the Belfast Jewish community in the face of such a revolting act of vandalism and disrespect which will cause much distress to families affected as well as to the wider community.

“We support the community's efforts that Belfast City Council restore and secure the cemetery. We hope that those responsible are arrested swiftly and face the full consequences of their actions.”

Two years ago, a number of antisemitic incidents in Belfast followed demonstrations over Gaza. Windows were smashed at the city's main Orthodox synagogue on two consecutive nights at the height of the conflict and its rabbi, David Singer, received abusive phone calls. Officials removed a plaque marking the birthplace of the late Israeli President, Chaim Herzog, following a series of attacks and daubings.

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