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Israel to Pay Damages for Church Arson Attack


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has overruled a decision by the nation's tax authority that denied payment of damages to a Catholic church on the Sea of Galilee for an arson attack last June.

Weinstein decided Monday that Israel will compensate the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in the town of Tabgha, after arsonists set fire to the church, destroying much of the roof and gutting large portions of the interior. Vandals also spray painted a graffiti message saying, "Idol worship will be destroyed."

Damages were estimated at just under $2 million.

In July, police indicted two Jewish youths from a nearby community in connection with the attack.

The tax authority had initially ruled two weeks ago that compensation would not be forthcoming because Israeli law stipulates that damages are to be awarded only for incidents related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Weinstein determined that the church burning was "ideologically based within the Israel-Arab conflict," according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz quoted the church's Father Mattias as saying, "From the start we were told we would be compensated. We were surprised when they decided not to compensate. It's heartening they changed their mind."

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