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After war, Christians in Gaza express fear of emboldened Hamas

ICC Note

“We don’t know what we will do if they decide to make Gaza into an Islamic emirate,”

By Judith Sudilovsky

01/21/2009 Palestine (CNS)-Christians and moderate Muslims quietly expressed concern about what their place in the Gaza Strip would be now that Hamas remains strong after a three-week Israeli offensive.

Several businessmen who spoke to Catholic News Service questioned the outcome of the war, which began with Israeli bombardments Dec. 27 and ended with separate unilateral cease-fires — declared by Israel Jan. 18 and Hamas Jan. 19.

“Hamas is still in government and there are guns everywhere,” one businessman noted, hinting that Israel ‘s offensive to destroy Hamas’ power base was a failure.

At first Christians cautiously told CNS that although they were concerned about the future until now the Christian community had not been troubled by Hamas. But as the conversations continued, they recounted how unknown extremists had killed a member of a Baptist church in 2007 and there had been numerous violent attacks against Christian institutions and businesses, such as Internet cafes, viewed as Western.

One woman, asked if the recent three-week war would make Hamas stronger, replied, “I hope not.”

Living near a mosque, she said, she often heard inflammatory statements over the loudspeakers, with the imam cursing Jews and Christians in the same breath.

“Many Christians think about leaving,” said one Christian, “but the church wants us to stay.”

“We don’t know what we will do if they decide to make Gaza into an Islamic emirate,” said one man, recounting at his wife’s insistence how Hamas thugs have threatened Christian women for not covering their hair as required by Islamic law and for wearing what Hamas deems to be immodest Western dress.

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