Yobs condemned after attack on Jewish graves in Belfast cemetery
Thirteen Jewish graves have been damaged in an attack at Belfast City Cemetery in what a DUP MLA has described as a "dark day for the city".
It's thought a large crowd had gathered in the area at around 3pm on Friday with eight youths carrying out the attacks with hammers and blocks.
Headstones were knocked over and smashed in the attack.
DUP MLA William Humphrey said he has been in contact with the Rabbi and members of the Jewish community to express his revulsion.
"A graveyard is a sacred place and should be respected as such," he said. "And those responsible are guilty of a most heinous hate crime."
Stevie Corr, a local Sinn Fein councillor, said he was sickened and disgusted by the attack.
The Falls Road cemetery is maintained by the council and is one of the oldest public graveyards in Belfast.
Chief Inspector Norman Haslett added: "This is a particularly sickening incident, which we are treating as a hate crime.
"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 in a bid to bring those responsible before the courts.
"I have already liaised with local representatives and I will continue to do so regarding this and other issues relating to anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of the cemetery.
"I would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time and witnessed this incident, or to anyone who has any information whatsoever that could assist in our investigation to contact police on the non-emergency number."
It is not yet clear if the incident was an anti-semitic attack or the result of anti-social behaviour. Several youths had apparently been seen drinking and taking drugs in the vicinity of the attack.
Land was first acquired for a Jewish burial ground within the cemetery in 1871.
It was accessed via a separate entrance on Whiterock Road. Above the gate, which is now bricked up, you can still read the Hebrew inscription that marked this area of the cemetery.
Translated, it means "the house of life".
The Jewish area of the cemetery used to contain a small building used for the ritual act of purification, but it was destroyed by vandals in the 1970s.