The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land says vandalism of church property, allegedly by Jewish extremists, is "poisoning the atmosphere" ahead of Pope Francis' first official visit later this month.
Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal says the vandalism is of grave concern to all reasonable persons. He also calls it a blight on Israeli democracy.
Jewish extremists are alleged to have spray-painted graffiti and racist insults on churches and religious centers in Jerusalem in a series of vandalistic acts over the past year.
Police have arrested a number of suspects.
The vandalism has become known as "price tag" attacks after ultranationalist Jews warned the government would "pay the price" for curbing Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian areas.
Pope Francis is scheduled to make his first visit as pope to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank May 24-26.