GRAVESEND, Brooklyn — Brooklyn mosque-goers discovered their Islamic center had been vandalized as they arrived Thursday morning to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year in the Islamic faith, officials said.
As tensions flare in the Middle East, with fears of all-out war between Israel and Hamas growing exponentially, the Tayba Islamic Center on Coney Island Avenue was vandalized with graffiti reading “Death 2 Palestine.”
Police said an unknown individual tagged the front of the building, and no other damage was reported. The NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is investigating.
“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the apparent bias motive for this vandalism and call on elected leaders to denounce this hateful act and the violent rhetoric,” said Ahmed Mohamed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The graffiti was discovered by worshipers set to mark the holiday of Eid al-Fitr with prayer; it’s considered one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar. It marks the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting.
Israel said Thursday it is massing troops along the Gaza frontier and calling up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory. Egyptian mediators rushed to Israel for cease-fire efforts but showed no signs of progress. The stepped-up fighting came as communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night.
Jewish and Arab mobs clashed in the flashpoint town of Lod. The fighting took place despite a bolstered police presence ordered by the nation’s leaders. The four-day burst of violence is the most intense fighting Israel has ever had with Hamas. It has also sparked the worst Jewish-Arab violence inside Israel in decades.
The situation has also fueled global tensions over the historic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with many international leaders treading lightly with their responses.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to freedom, dignity, security and prosperity. Both sides, Blinken said on Thursday, should be able to live in peace.
He added, however, that Israel has a basic right to protect itself. Blinken described a fundamental difference between Hamas militants who are firing rockets into Israeli territory from Gaza and Israel’s government, which is “going after those who are attacking it.”
Blinken’s comments at a news conference with Australia’s visiting foreign minister came after President Joe Biden said that he had not seen “a significant overreaction” from Israel to the rocket fire.
Norway’s U.N. Mission says the U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency open meeting on Sunday on the escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
Some U.N. countries had pushed for an open meeting on Friday but the United States said it wanted a delay until Tuesday.
“Over the past four days we have seen a rise in disturbing rhetoric from public officials, city agencies, and political candidates that completely dehumanizes Palestinians and Muslims alike,” said Mosaab Sadeia of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, speaking of the mosque vandalism. “Several elected officials have thrown blind support behind Israel’s atrocities with little regard for how that affects Muslim communities, as both constituents at home and humans abroad. The vandalism that took place earlier today is a direct consequence of that.
Wednesday, New York City Council passed a bill raising the minimum fine for vandalizing a house of worship from $500 to $1,000.
In recent months, several synagogues have been vandalized, with smashed windows or antisemitic graffiti. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was tagged last year with graffiti related to policing.