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LOCAL News :: Civil & Human Rights

Anti-Christian 'Cleansing' Campaign Picks Up Pace in Gaza

Anti-Christian 'Cleansing' Campaign Picks Up Pace in Gaza

by Gil Ronen

(IsraelNN.com) Attacks on Christian targets and those identified with Western culture have grown more frequent in Gaza in the past two years, and especially since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, experts say. The targets have included churches, Christian and United Nations schools, the American International School, libraries and Internet cafes.

The most recent incident occurred this past Saturday, May 31, when gunmen attacked the guards at the Al Manara school, stole a vehicle belonging to the Baptist Holy Book Society which operates the school and threatened the society's director. The Hamas leadership is not acting to stop the attacks and no one has been brought to justice.

Global jihad involvement
An Israeli intelligence report determined that there has been an increase in the number of attacks on Christian figures and institutions, as well as those associated with Western values. The attacks are being perpetrated by elements identified with the global jihad and radical Islam. In the past two years, groups associated with Al-Qaeda took responsibility for attacks upon Christians and Christian institutions with the expressly-stated goal of driving Christians out of Gaza.

The Christian community in Gaza numbers around 3,000. According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), the attacks on Christians have included the following:

* May 18, 2008: a large bomb exploded at the entrance to a fast-food restaurant near Al-Quds Open University in the center of Gaza City. The restaurant was completely destroyed. According t
Groups associated with Al-Qaeda took responsibility for attacks with the expressly-stated goal of driving Christians out of Gaza.
o the owner, it was the second time his establishment had been attacked.
* May 16, 2008: a bomb exploded in the Rahabat al-Wardia school run by nuns in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City. Hamas condemned the incident and a call was made to the police to bring the criminals to justice. The previous year, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, the school was subjected to thefts and an arson attack.
* April 3, 2008: a monument in the Gaza Strip's foreign nationals' cemetery was blown up. Hamas promised to investigate.
* February 15, 2008: Three gunmen from the “Army of Islam in the Land of Ribat,” a network headed by Mumtaz Dughmush, broke into the YMCA library in Gaza City and set off a bomb which caused extensive damage. Hamas police condemned the event, calling it “a criminal act” and promising to investigate. The Hamas security forces detained a number of Army of Islam operatives but released them shortly thereafter, following a threat to use force to free them. After the event, senior Hamas figures met with senior Christian figures to express solidarity.
* January 10, 2008: a group called "Army of the Believers -- the Al-Qaeda Organization in Palestine,” attacked the International School in Beit Lahiya twice, burning vehicles and stealing equipment. According to a statement issued two days later, the school was accused of spreading polytheism and hatred for Islam. The attacks were timed to coincide with U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Israel.
* December 31, 2007: the “Friends of the Sunnah Bayt al-Maqdis” issued a manifesto on the Pal-Today Website, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, threatening to attack anyone who participated in New Year's Eve celebrations.
* October 6, 2007, elements linked to Hamas abducted Rami Khadr Ayad from his home and shot him to death; he was a Christian who worked for the Holy Bible Society. The Hamas administration condemned the murder and opened an investigation whose results are so far unknown.
* June 19, 2007: during the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip Hamas gunmen attacked and vandalized a monastery and church.
* April 21, 2007: elements linked to the global jihad attacked the American International School in Gaza City.
* April 15, 2007: a group calling itself “The Swords of Truth in the Land of Ribat” set off bombs in two Internet cafes and a store selling Christian books, causing damage.

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