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News Alert: Christians In Gaza Face Violence And Humanitarian Crisis

ICC Note

“I understood from members of my congregation that they are scared to worship together on Sunday’s,”

By Eric Leijenaar

Wednesday, 30 January 2008 Palestine (BosNewsLife)- Palestinian Christians in the troubled Gaza Strip, who already struggle amid death threats and violence, faced another humanitarian crisis Wednesday, January 30, after Israel ‘s Supreme Court backed the state’s decision to cut supplies of fuel and electricity to the Hamas-run entity.

Rights groups which had petitioned the court over the sanctions, slammed the decision, saying it would allow Israel to “continue to deliberately violate the rights of civilians in Gaza … in violation of international law,” amid reports that they risk their lives to buy supplies in Egypt .

For the past week hundreds of thousands of Palestinians briefly managed to enter Egypt to buy food and medicines as Hamas gunman exploded parts of a border wall, but Egyptian security forces used deadly force Wednesday, January 30, to end the influx.

On Wednesday, January 30, Egyptian guards at the breached border with Gaza fatally shot a 22-year-old African man and woman as they tried to illegally cross from Egypt into the Palestinian territory, officials said. The guards reportedly opened fire at a group of eight Africans in Rafah, a town divided by the border, as they appeared to use the chaos to enter Israel via Gaza .

Increasing Difficulties

It increased the difficulties for especially the Gaza Strip’s minority Christians, who already are facing “increased pressure” since the director of the area’s only known Christian bookstore was found dead in October last year, said Netherlands-based group Open Doors, which supports Christians facing persecution.

Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was found stepped and shot to death October 7 in a street of Gaza City , the territory’s main city, six months after his Teacher’s Bookshop of the Palestinian Bible Society was blown up by militants.

His widow, Pauline Ayyad, and her two children briefly left the Gaza Strip after Rami’s death to recover emotionally from the attack but returned in January. She is now facing difficulties as “she is pregnant and expects her third child in February. Because of the violence and lack of electricity in hospitals, she is considering seeking permission to give birth outside Gaza ,” Open Doors told BosNewsLife in a statement.

Fuel Shortages

Because of a lack of fuel for generators, many hospitals and homes are often without electricity. Baptist Pastor Hanna Massad has another problem. He briefly left the Gaza Strip amid death threats, but has no permission to return.

“I understood from members of my congregation that they are scared to worship together on Sunday’s,” he said in remarks distributed by Open Doors. “So they only come together in small groups. I am now living in the West Bank along with seven other families from Gaza…They are now before a difficult choice whether to stay here or to return home.”

Open Doors said it has learned that some 70 percent of Christians in the Gaza Strip are considering to leave the area. “Ofcourse it’s a difficult choice. We love our country. Here are our homes and our roots. If we leave, we don’t know anyone,” one unidentified Christian was quoted as saying.

Open Doors said that the pressure on the estimated 3,000 Christians in the Gaza Strip increased in 2007, amid a power struggle between the Hamas and Fatah factions. Fatah currently controls the West Bank , Hamas the Gaza Strip. “There have been several attacks on Christian institutions,” well-informed Open Doors said.