SYDNEY, Jun. 10 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minster Anthony Albanese on Monday condemned vandalism of the U.S. consulate in Sydney after the building was defaced in what local media said appeared to be a pro-Palestinian protest.

The building in the northern suburbs of Australia's largest city was attacked and sprayed with paint by a person carrying a small sledgehammer at around 3 a.m. local time on Monday.

"I would just say that people should have respectful political debate and discourse," Albanese said in a televised media conference from Canberra when asked about the incident.

"Measures such as painting the U.S. Consulate do nothing to advance the cause of those who have committed what is of course a crime to damage property," he added.

Nine windows of the consulate were damaged and the building's door was graffitied, police said.

"CCTV has been sourced that shows a person wearing a dark coloured hoodie with their face obscured carrying what appears to be a small sledgehammer," a police spokesperson told Reuters by phone.

A spokesperson for the U.S. consulate confirmed the building had been damaged but said staff and operations were unaffected.

"Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police are investigating the incident," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Photos of the consulate on the website of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper showed inverted red triangles sprayed on the building's front. The symbol is used by some pro-Palestinian activists, it reported.

The same building was sprayed with graffiti in April, while the U.S. consulate in Melbourne was graffitied by pro-Palestine activists in May, according to the newspaper.

Long a stalwart ally of Israel, Australia has become increasingly critical of its conduct in Gaza, where an Australian aid worker was killed in an Israeli attack earlier this year.

Last month, camps sprang up at universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and other Australian cities protesting Israel's war in Gaza and claiming the Australian government has not done enough to push for peace.

Photo from Reuters