National Flags, Wreaths on Soldiers' Graves Torched as Israel Marks Independence Day

Incident comes a day after Israel's Memorial Day ■ Netanyahu, military chief of staff harshly condemn 'heinous' act

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Members of an extreme ultra-Orthodox faction torched Israeli flags and wreaths placed on graves of soldiers in Jerusalem, the police said Thursday as Israel a celebrated its 73rd Independence Day, a day after the country's Memorial Day for soldiers and civilian victims of attacks.

The police opened an investigation into the incident after obtaining a video in which the flags and wreaths were seen burning. Police said they were employing overt and covert measures to apprehend the suspects.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, saying it was "an atrocious act of desecrating the memory of those who made it possible for us to live here. I harshly condemn this barbaric incident and expect the authorized bodies to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the incident was "a despicable, immoral, un-Jewish and cruel act," and that bereaved families and the memory of their loved ones are more important than any disagreement or protest.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi called the incident "serious and disgraceful," adding that it goes against Israel's values and harms those who protect them, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement.

"The IDF supports the bereaved families and condemns this despicable behavior. We are confident that the Israel Police will bring those who committed this heinous crime to justice," the statement added.

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