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Churches Burn in Palestinian Territories
Pope’s comments on Islam cause an uproar

Israel Today. A year after Palestinians burned and vandalized synagogues in abandoned Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, churches were hit by arson attacks in Judea and Samaria . Terrorists threw firebombs and poured gasoline into churches and set them alight in protest over comments by the pope seen as anti-Islam.
The sanctuary of a 170-year-old church in Palestinian-ruled Tulkarem was entirely destroyed, its pews and ornate door turned into blackened wrecks of charcoal. Other churches were attacked in the militant hotbed of Nablus .
In Gaza , gunmen opened fire at the St. Perfidious Church, hitting the building. The Greek Orthodox Church is 1,425 years old. There are a few thousand Christians in Gaza , but the community is in danger of disappearing because of emigration and intermarriage—and now, persecution.
Rosette Sayyegh said she was publicly insulted while shopping in Gaza and wearing a big golden cross. “An old, bearded, respectable-looking man wearing a white robe stood in front of me and said, ‘I spit on your cross,’” she sighed.
Most of the churches that were attacked weren’t even Catholic. Anything with a cross was a target.
Groups such as the “Sword of Islam” and the “Lions of Monotheism” claimed responsibility, accusing the pope of leading a new Crusade against the Moslem world.
Palestinian Christian leaders played down the attacks as “isolated” incidents. Victor Batarseh, the Christian mayor of Bethlehem , says relations between Moslems and Christians are good. “We have been living together here for hundreds of years,” he said, “and we’ll keep living together as good neighbors and good friends forever.”
Palestinian Christians chose to lay low because, after all, they have to live alongside the powerful Moslem majority. But the dwindling Christian community in the Holy Land is facing a growing challenge from the Islamic militancy that is sweeping through the Palestinian territories. Christians in Judea, Samaria , Gaza and East Jerusalem are believed to number 50,000, about 2 percent of the population.
“The attacks on Christian institutions point to the precarious position of Christians in the Holy Land,” said Daniel Rossing, director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.