Seventeen Jewish graves have been destroyed and vandalised in what appears to have been an organised attack inside a Belfast cemetery, The Guardian reported on 28 August.
Up to eight youths, some using hammers, attacked the graves in west Belfast on Friday evening, according to a member of the Northern Ireland assembly.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed it is investigating the incident as a hate crime. The graves, some of which date back to the 1870s, are in a walled-off section of Belfast city cemetery between the Whiterock and Falls roads.
Ch Insp Norman Haslett of the PSNI said the attack was “a particularly sickening incident, which we are treating as a hate crime”. He added: “To disturb the sanctity of a cemetery in this way is completely unacceptable and I can assure the public that we will conduct a robust investigation.”
Democratic Unionist assembly member William Humphrey said he has learned from Belfast city council staff that eight youths were involved and that they used hammers and blocks during the attack. Humphrey said a larger crowd had gone into the cemetery to support the eight youths carrying out the vandalism. “A graveyard is a sacred place and should be respected as such,” he said.
Paul Maskey, Sinn Féin’s West Belfast MP, also condemned those responsible for the vandalism. “Visiting cemeteries can bring great comfort to grieving relatives and friends and it would be very distressing for anyone to have the grave of a loved one desecrated in this way,” Maskey said.
The Alliance party Belfast councillor Michael Long said he believed the vandalism was a targeted attack.