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By Jan-Uwe Ronneburger and Shabtai Gold

JERUSALEM — Israel has banned four far-right activists from entering the Old City of Jerusalem during the pope’s upcoming visit, a police spokesman confirmed Thursday.

They include three youths under the age of 18, spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

The orders issued by police also place the activists under administrative house arrest during parts of Pope Francis’ stay in the Holy Land on Sunday and Monday.

Roman Catholic leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories have condemned a series of recent anti-Christian hate crimes by Jewish extremists, including racist graffiti sprayed on churches.

Israel Tourism Minister Uzi Landau told the German news agency dpa that “marginal groups” are behind the incidents.

“We are speaking about criminals. The police will deal with that, and I hope they will be even much more successful in doing that,” said Landau, adding that the incidents were “embarrassing.”

Israel’s security services said they decided to issue the house arrest orders as a preventative measure, amid concern extremists were planning to cause provocations.

Haaretz newspaper reported that the Shin Bet intelligence agency had collected evidence of “intentions by radical right wing activists to disrupt the visit of the pope planned for next week, and also to engage in provocative and illegal actions in order to incite inter-religious tensions ahead of the visit.”

The pope starts his trip on Saturday in Jordan.

 maxnathans via Flickr

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