A municipality worker paints over graffiti daubed in Hebrew on a wall of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem
A municipality worker paints over graffiti daubed in Hebrew on a wall of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.Reuters

A suspected price tag attack has targeted the Romanian Orthodox Church on Hahoma Hashlishit street in Jerusalem, in the latest of a series of hate crimes against Christians and Arabs.

Settlers were the primary suspects in the defacement of the Church, in which the words "price tag", "King David for the Jews" and "Jesus is garbage" were sprayed in Hebrew on the site's walls.

The grim discovery was made by church members who had recently returned from a trip, Haaretz quoted a Romanian nun as saying, adding that relations with neighbours in the ultra-Orthodox area were usually good. "It is an act of extremists," the nun said. The graffiti was painted over after the discovery.

In another price tag attack, "Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel" was scrawled in a marker on an electrical box by the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.

'Price-tag' is a term used by Jewish settlers to describe attacks – usually carried out against Palestinians but also targeting Christian churches and Israeli Arabs – in retribution or punishment for the Israeli government's actions perceived as pro-Palestinian.

The attacks are aimed at exacting "a price" for government actions, such as demolishing settlements.

In January, Jewish settlers who entered a West Bank village to carry out price-tag attacks were rescued from a lynching by Arab villagers, thanks to a group of elderly Palestinians.

A mosque in the occupied West Bank village of Deir Istiya was set on fire and graffiti in Hebrew was scrawled on the building's wall, reading "Arabs out" and "Revenge for spilled blood in Qusra".

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni condemned the latest wave of attacks saying that there is a "hardcore, ideological group, based in Judea and Samaria, in certain settlements, who want to prevent us from living here in any reasonable way".

The attacks have also alarmed the Vatican ahead of the scheduled visit of Pope Francis on 24-26 May. The Roman Catholic body in charge of the Vatican properties in the Holy Land urged Israel to safeguard Christian holy sites, after Jewish extremists defaced Vatican-owned offices in East Jerusalem.

"Death to Arabs and Christians and those who hate Israel" was spray-painted on the offices of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Centre, a Vatican-owned complex opposite the walls of Jerusalem's Old CIty.

Israeli police and the Shin Bet fear that extremists might use Pope Francis' visit to carry out major hate crimes.