Archbishop Hosam Naoum inspects a desecrated grave at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (4 January 2023)Reuters

Two teenagers have been arrested by Israeli police investigating an attack on a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem.

Police said the pair were aged 14 and 18 and came from central Israel.

They said gravestones at the historic Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery had suffered extensive damage from an “act of intentional vandalism”.

Israel’s Anglican Church, Jewish leaders and faith leaders from the UK all condemned Sunday’s attack.

Security camera footage shows two young men pushing over a gravestone in the shape of a cross and smashing others. They are wearing kippahs, or skullcaps, and knotted fringes known as tzitzit on their clothes, indicating they are religious Jews. More than 30 graves were damaged at the site close to Jerusalem’s Old City.

Other than giving their ages and a rough location of where they were from, Israeli police did not say any more about the suspects.

Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum said he was dismayed and saddened by the attack, which he said seemed to be part of a trend. “We have noticed that hatred speech and hatred crimes are on the rise,” he said on a visit to the cemetery on Wednesday.

The British Consulate in Jerusalem called it “the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their property in and around the Old City”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, called the desecration of the graves “a blasphemous act”, while the UK’s Orthodox Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said: “This shameful vandalism is a disgraceful desecration for which I hope the perpetrators will be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Israel’s foreign ministry also condemned what it said was an “immoral act” and “an affront to religion”.

The cemetery was set up in 1848 and is looked after by the Lutheran and Anglican communities.

Among those buried there are scientists, politicians, members of the armed forces and clergy, many of whom were prominent figures in the holy city.

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