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Sunday, September 17, 2006


Palestinians suspect Israeli agents behind fire-bombing of Churches

17 September, 2006

from Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

Palestinian nationalist and Islamic leaders on Sunday strongly condemned fire-bombing attacks against a few churches in the West Bank, calling the incidents “suspicious” and “incompatible with Palestinian and Islamic culture.”

Three churches in Nablus, Tulkarm and Tubas in the northern West Bank have been attacked with fire-bombs by unknown perpetrators resulting in minor damage.

The mayor of Tubas, where a small Greek Orthodox Church was attacked, accused “suspicious elements,” a reference to Israeli Shin Bet (Israel’s chief domestic intelligence agency) agents of “having embarked on this ugly act and criminal act.”

“It is either Israeli collaborators or some overzealous fools upset by the remarks of the Pope,” said Iqab Darghmeh (Abu Ahmed), in a telephone interview.

Darghmeh and Muslim notables, including representatives of Fatah, Hamas and civic leaders visited the church Sunday morning to show solidarity with the small Christian community in the town.

“Christians here are not a separate sect. They are our flesh and blood. They are our brothers. An attack on their churches is an attack on Islam and the Palestinian people.”

The fire-bombings have been widely condemned by religious and political leaders throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Muhammed Hussein, the highest-ranking Muslim clergyman in East Jerusalem described the bombing as “immoral, unethical and injurious to Palestinian unity.”

“Those who perpetrated these acts don’t represent the Palestinian people. They are a gang of ignoramuses and fanatics, or suspicious elements.” In the Palestinian political lexicon, “suspicious elements” is an allusion to Israeli collaborators and informers.

Earlier, the Mufti of Ramallah, Jamal Bawatneh, called on all Palestinians to inform on any person seen attacking or vandalizing Christian churches and property.

“I urge our people to inform on any person carrying out a crime against people and property. Failing to do so amounts to treason and complicity, “ read a statement issued by the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza.

Hamas condemns vandalism

Meanwhile, the Islamic Resistance group, Hamas, strongly condemned attacks on churches in parts of the West Bank, calling such attacks “criminal and harmful to the Palestinian cause.”

“I am sure that Israel is enjoying this. Israel always wants to create problems and divisions between Muslims and Christians. And those who committed these acts are only serving Zionist propaganda and goals,” said Yousuf Ibrahim, a Hamas spokesperson in the Bethlehem region.

“I am nearly certain that at least some of the perpetrators are Israeli agents.”

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Interior Minister, Sa’eed Siyam, ordered the security apparatus to step up security measures around churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Pope’s remarks condemned

Muslim and most Christian religious and secular leaders did condemn anti-Islam remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany on 14 September.

The Pope, quoting a medieval Byzantine emperor as saying that “Show me just what Muhammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

The remarks drew angry but mostly non-violent reactions from across the Muslim world, with Muslim leaders calling on the Pope to apologize for offending Muslim sensibilities.

Some Muslim scholars interpreted the remarks as “a declaration of war on Islam.”

“When you say that Islam is evil, you are not only de-legitimizing it, but encouraging open war on its followers,” said the Supreme Sharia Judge in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sheikh Taysir Tamimi.

The pope more or less apologized during a Sunday mass.

“I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

“These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.”

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