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Israel bars extremists from Jerusalem ahead of pope's visit; church vandalized in the south

Mideast Israel Pope-1.jpg

Workers at the Israeli president's residence make preparations ahead of the Papal visit to Jerusalem, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Pope Francis will visit the region for three days starting Saturday. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov) (The Associated Press)

Police have barred several Israeli extremists from Jerusalem ahead of Pope Francis's visit to the Holy Land.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says five "right-wing individuals" were given orders on Friday banning them from Jerusalem after intelligence reports indicated they planned a "provocation." He says the orders will remain in effect until after the pope leaves the region.

Rosenfeld also says a church was defaced with graffiti in the southern city of Beersheba earlier in the day. Police suspect it could be the latest in a series of hate crimes blamed on radical Israelis.

The acts of vandalism have been condemned by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum.

The pope is expected on a two-day visit to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, beginning Saturday.