An Israeli court sentenced Yinon Reuveni, 22 to eight years imprisonment for the arson targeting the Church of Loaves and Fishes near Tiberias two years ago.
His lawyer said that he intends to appeal the sentence, and claimed that the proof of Yinon’s involvement was insufficient. The lawyer also accused the court that convicted him of making mistakes and ignoring evidence presented by the defense.
Yinon was arrested and charged with arson in July of this year, while another Israeli extremist was acquitted of all charges in the burning of the church.
The church was burned in June of 2015 in a blatant act of anti-Christian aggression. In addition to the fire, which destroyed several church buildings, the perpetrators painted anti-Arab and anti-Christian graffiti on walls throughout the church grounds.
The Catholic Church recently celebrated the reopening of the church, earlier this year.
The fire, which was set in the middle of the night in June of 2015, wounded two church members and completely destroyed one of the buildings on the site.
Hebrew graffiti was found on another building within the complex, reading ‘Idols will be cast out’ or destroyed, AFP correspondents reported at the time. The text is part of a common Jewish prayer.
The church only recently reopened, two years after the arson attack. The damage cost over a million dollars to repair, and the Israeli government in September 2015 rejected a claim for compensation by officials of the Catholic Church.
Reuveni, the only person to be convicted in the arson attack – despite evidence that multiple people were involved – is also a suspect in a number of other hate crimes against Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land.
One of the crimes he is suspected of participating in is an arson in February 2015 against the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.
Asraf, who was acquitted of all charges in the arson on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, is known to have lived in the Israeli colonial settlement of Yitzhar, where many of the Israeli extremists known to have carried out attacks against Palestinians have lived.
A third suspect, Moshe Orbach, was arrested in late 2015, accused of inciting violence against Christians and other non-Jews living in the Holy Land for writing and publishing tracts detailing the “necessity” of attacking non-Jews, and laying out the practical steps on how to carry out the attacks.
Orbach was later released.
Bentzi Gopstein, the right-wing Israeli leader of the extremist group Lehava, in 2016 reiterated the call for Jewish extremists to torch churches in the Holy Land.