Police to Deploy 8,000 Extra Officers During Papal Visit
Israel's top police officer on Sunday vowed to step up police presence nationwide ahead of Pope Francis's upcoming visit, according to AFP.
"You cannot exaggerate the importance of this visit on both a national and an international level," Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told reporters in Jerusalem.
The two-day papal visit to Israel, which begins on May 25, was being treated by police with the same level of importance as that of US President Barack Obama, with an extra 8,000 officers to be deployed throughout Jerusalem, he said.
Danino also responded to the Vatican's repeated concerns over "price tag" vandalism on Christian sites ahead of the visit, vowing to apprehend "extreme elements."
"All sorts of extreme elements... are trying to create pressure and the impression of pressure. We are rejecting this pressure and we won't let them succeed," he said. "We will do everything to ensure they won't harm Christian holy places... and to ensure the trip goes successfully."
The papacy has been up in arms over 'price tag' attacks, a euphemism for politically-motivated vandalism and criminal damage usually attributed to Jewish extremists, carried out either in revenge for Arab terrorist attacks, or in protest of Israeli government policies such as the destruction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria.
The Vatican has expressed heightened concern over several attacks on Christian sites in Israel over the past several weeks, a phenomenon which critics note has been heavily hyped by Israel's left-leaning media.
"The bishops are very concerned about the lack of security and lack of responsiveness from the political sector, and fear an escalation of violence," it said in a statement earlier this month, noting there had been "no gesture of solidarity or condemnation" from Israel's political establishment. "We feel neither safe nor protected."
It is not known if the Patriarchate has issued any kind of statement regarding the persecution of Christians in the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA)in Judea and Samaria.
The Vatican seems to be dismissing threats against Christian co-existence in the PA, however - as Pope Francis is due to ride through Bethlehem and other dangerous areas in an open, unarmed convoy.