'Death to Christians': Suspected Jewish extremists deface monastery

JERUSALEM -- A Jerusalem monastery, built on the spot where tradition holds the tree from which Jesus' cross was made, was defaced with graffiti bearing the hallmarks of militant Jewish settlers, police said on Tuesday.

"Death to Christians" was daubed in Hebrew on the outer walls of the Monastery of the Cross, an 11th-century fortress-like holy site situated in a valley overlooked by Israel's parliament.

Army Radio reported that "Maccabees of Migron" was painted on the monastery, too, The Associated Press reported. Maccabees were ancient Jewish heroes, and Migron is an unauthorized settlement facing a court-ordered evacuation.

Such acts originally targeted West Bank mosques but have recently expanded to include a mosque inside Israel, Israeli military bases, and now, a Christian holy site.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the words "Price Tag" were also painted overnight by the vandals, who damaged two cars parked outside the monastery in the attack, according to Reuters.

The slogan, used by Jewish settlers in vandalism attacks on mosques and Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, refers to the retribution they say they will exact for any attempt by the Israeli government to curb settlement in the territory.

"I am a priest and I forgive," Father Claudio of the monastery, which is administered by the Greek Orthodox church, told Reuters.

Rosenfeld said police had opened an investigation.