Police have arrested five hilltop activists who allegedly were behind the June 18 arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and police announced Wednesday afternoon that the suspects also have been involved in other hate crimes.
The arrests are a major victory against “price tag” vandals who have blackened the image of residents of Judea and Samaria, especially those who live in hilltop communities.
Indictments were filed against two suspects,20-year-old Yinon Reuveni of the western Negev town of Ofakim; and 19-year old Yehuda Asraf of Elad, a predominantly Haredi city in central Israel.
Administration steps will be taken against the other three.
All five suspects are “hilltop youth” and some of them have a record of violent activity.
Police and the Shin Bet said that Reuveni recently had been barred from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for xi months because of suspicion that he was involved in several “price tag” attacks in the Old City and against Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
The other suspects are 18-year-old Mordechai Meyer, of Maaleh Adumim, 24-year-old Moshe Orbach of Bnei Brak and “John Doe” of Ramle, located near Ben Gurion Airport.
Meyer recently was served with an injunction barring him from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem due to his suspected involvement in several incidents of arson. Orbach and “John Doe” also have lived in various hilltop youth outposts and also is suspected with several hate crimes.
The Shin Bet and police stated:
This group operates in the context of an ideological infrastructure composed of a limited number of hilltop youth activists. This infrastructure 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 infrastructure sought to hit ‘weak points’ in the State of Israel in order to arouse dialogue and win adherents and also tried (unsuccessfully) to disrupt the May 2014 visit of Pope Francis.
It added that the ringleader of the infrastructure now lives in Safed (Tzfat) and has recently lived in various hilltop youth outposts. He also has been served with an administrative order barring him from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem for one year.
The infrastructure began with mainly anti-Christian activity, including the vandalism of the Dir Rafat monastery in April 2014.
In the past year, the infrastructure began to commit more significant terrorist attacks of arson against Arab homes in Judea and Samaria.
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 and stated, “Only those who deny idolatry and fight against Christianity and aspire to remove the churches from the Holy Land – they are called Jews.”