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Israel Thursday denounced as "despicable" an attack in which a 53-year-old rabbi was punched in the head and insulted with anti-Semitic slurs by four young men in Berlin.

Calling the attack an act of "brutal racism," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel hoped "the authorities will bring to justice those responsible, and will take necessary measures to ensure that such unspeakable violence will not repeat itself."

The rabbi was assaulted late Tuesday, after the assailants asked him if he was Jewish and blocked his path and that of his 6-year-old daughter. They then struck repeated blows to his head while insulting the Jewish faith and threatening the child.

The rabbi, who is active in the city's Jewish community, was admitted to hospital for treatment.

Police said they were searching for the four men, who they described as being of Arab descent.