PCHR Condemns Attacks on Palestinian Churches

A 170-year-old stone Tulkarem church was torched before dawn and its interior destroyed, 17 September 2006. Two churches in the West Bank were set ablaze as anger over the pope’s comments grew throughout the Palestinian areas. (MaanImages/Moud Ashqar)

PCHR strongly condemns the series of attacks launched on a number of churches in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), following a statement by Pope Benedic XVI lately reported by the media. This statement has been met by criticism all over the Islamic World. PCHR believes that such attacks on churches is an extension of the state if security chaos in the OPT, which requires the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to intervene to stop them.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, six churches have been attacked by unknown persons in the past two days in Gaza City, Nablus, Tulkarm and Tubas. These attacked have followed a statement by Pope Benedic XVI in a university lecture in Regensburg, Germany on Tuesday, which has been strongly criticized in the Islamic World.

At approximately 05:40 on Friday, 15 September 2006, a bomb exploded in the Orthodox Church in al-Zayoun neighborhood near Omar al-Mukhtar Street in the center of Gaza City. The explosion destroyed the door of the Orthodox Youth Center inside the Church and a number of windows were broken. At approximately 14:00 and 15:30 on the same day, unknown persons threw two home-made grenade at the church.

At approximately 12:00 on Saturday, 16 September 2006, five unknown persons threw a molotov cocktail bottle at the Biblical Church in Rafidya neighborhood in Nablus. Doors and stores were burnt, and walls were damaged. The same persons then fired another Molotov Cocktail bottle at the New Orthodox Church, causing similar damage.

At approximately 15:30 also on Saturday, a number of unknown persons fired a number of gunshots and then threw a molotov cocktail bottle at the wooden door of the Royal Church in Rafidya neighborhood in Nablus. The door was burnt.
At approximately 16:00 also on Saturday, 3 masked gunmen traveling in a civilian car fired at the office of the Council of Church Agents in the Orthodox Church in Gaza City. No casualties were reported.

At the same time, unknown persons threw a number of molotov cocktail bottles at the Latin Church in Rafidya neighborhood in Nablus.

At approximately 03:00 on Sunday, 17 September 2006, a number of persons broke the locks of the external gate of the Orthodox Church in the center of Tulkarm, and then broke the lock of the internal door leading into the Church. Soon after, they set fire inside the church, burning all of its contents. According to Daoud Metri Khar’ouba, the servant of the Church, the attackers stole some of the Church’s contents. The Church is the only one in Tulkarm, and only a 15-member Christian family lives in the town.

At the same time, unknown persons broke the northern window of the Orthodox Church in Tubas village, southeast of Jenin. They then set fire inside the Church. The northern part of the church was burnt, before firemen were able to extinguish fire.

PCHR strongly condemns these attacks on Palestinian Churches, and:

1. Believes that these attacks is an extension of the state of security chaos in the OPT;
2. Totally rejects attacks on holy sites for whatever reason;
3. Calls upon the PNA, represented by the Attorney-General, to investigate these attacks and bring their perpetrators to justice; and
4. Calls for promoting the spirit of brotherhood, dialogue and tolerance.