Tel Aviv – An Israeli activist from an extremist settler organization was found guilt on Tuesday of the 2015 arson of a church in Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.
The district court in the Galilee city of Nazareth found Yinon Reuveni guilty of “aggravated arson” and two counts of criminal conspiracy for the June 2015 attack. An accomplice of his was also charged.
A date for sentencing was not set.
The court transcript did not give Reuveni’s date of birth, but Israeli daily Haaretz said he was 22 and from the rogue Jewish settlement outpost of Baladim, in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Two rooms of the Church of the Multiplication complex in Tabgha were badly damaged in the fire, but the church itself was not damaged.
Israeli police had arrested three suspects linked to the arson attack a month after it was committed.
Reuveni was seen on surveillance footage to be filling a bottle with gas from a nearby gas station and then lighting it before tossing it at the church.
The court ruling said that he was aware that the church’s front gate was monitored by cameras, which is why he parked his vehicle at its back gate.
He entered the facility at around 3:00 am, poured gas in the premises and painted Hebrew graffiti at the site, reading “Idols will be cast out” or destroyed.
The text is part of a common Jewish prayer.
The Roman Catholic church remained closed until February while the damage caused by the fire was repaired at a cost of around one million dollars, of which the Israeli government contributed almost $400,000.
Reuveni’s lawyers have 45 days in which to appeal.
Tabgha was subjected to a previous attack in April 2014 in which church officials said a group of religious Jewish teenagers had damaged crosses and attacked clergy.