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Muslims intimidated church into holding Arafat memorial

ICC Note

“Now we fear Christians may be casualties of the escalating violence. We may be caught in the crosshairs, and we’re afraid of retaliation.”

By Aaron Klein

November 14, 2007 Palestine (WorldNetDaily) – Intimidation by members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party forced a Catholic church in Gaza to hold a memorial service yesterday for the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, according to sources in Gaza ‘s Christian leadership.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety, said Catholics now fears retaliation from Hamas, Fatah’s rival, after holding yesterday’s ceremony commemorating the third anniversary of Arafat’s death.

“The church was obliged to hold the event for Arafat after Christian leaders participated in a Hamas event 10 days ago,” said a Christian source close to the church. “Now we fear Christians may be casualties of the escalating violence. We may be caught in the crosshairs, and we’re afraid of retaliation.”

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The church event was part of larger, three-day memorial services held throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with events in Gaza setting off the worst factional clashes between Fatah and Hamas in months.

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The church memorial was the second time in recent days Christian leaders in the Gaza Strip said they were intimidated into showing support for the Palestinian leadership.

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Also present were hundreds of gunmen, including members of a group, Jihadia Salafiya, suspected of carrying out anti-Christian attacks in Gaza such as the lobbing of grenades last September at Alexious’ church.

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A major theme of Haniyeh’s speech was the spread of Islamic values throughout the world, according to reporters in attendance.

The reporters present said at one point during his speech, Haniyeh spoke about the “excellent” situation for Christians living under Hamas rule in Gaza .

He pointed to the two Christian leaders in attendance, at which point to two raised their hands and nodded in agreement, witnesses told WND.

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“The priests thought it was a diplomatic way to threaten them and put pressure on them,” said one source.

“After discussions within the Christian community leadership it was decided it would be dangerous not to assist in the meeting even though it would be very strange to see priests assisting in a meeting about the spread of Islam,” the source said.

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About 3,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.

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