June 22, 2007.
Christians living in Gaza City on Monday appealed to the international
community to protect them against increased attacks by Muslim extremists.
Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the
border crossings are reopened.
The appeal came following a series of attacks on a Christian school and
church in Gaza City over the past few days.
Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza
Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and
the Latin Church.
“The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main
entrances of the school and church,” he said. “Then they destroyed almost
everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book, computers and other
Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, noting
that the gunmen destroyed all the Crosses inside the church and school. “Those
who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations,” he
He estimated damages at more than $500,000. “Those who see the
destruction will realize how bad this attack was,” he said. “Christians have
been living in peace and security with Muslims for many years, but those who
attacked us are trying to sabotage this relationship.”
He said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas phoned him on
Sunday night to express his strong condemnation for the attack. “President
Abbas promised that he would do his utmost to prevent such attacks on
Christians here,” he said.
Fatah officials blamed Hamas militiamen for the attack on the church and
school. However, Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas’s Executive Force in
the Gaza Strip, denied responsibility.
He nevertheless admitted that a large group of Hamas militiamen had been
near the area during the attack. “We have instructed all our men to withdraw
from the area,” he said. “We will punish anyone who targets churches and