Churches attacked in Gaza, W. Bank

Report: Gun battle between PA police and assailants outside West Bank church

September 22, 2006 22:20
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Palestinian police guarding a church in Nablus exchanged fire with assailants and chased them away early Saturday, witnesses said. Shortly after midnight, the sound of heavy gun fire was heard outside the Roman Catholic Church in the West Bank city . Resident Abdel Salam Abu Rob said police guarding the church were exchanging fire with wouldbe assailants. Police guards were posted at churches in the West Bank and Gaza last weekend, after a first spate of attacks. Residents said they heard intensive fire for about 20 minutes. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage to the church. Ealier Friday evening, three small pipe bombs were thrown at a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza city , a church official and police said. A church official in Gaza City, Nabil Ayad, said one bomb was thrown at the facade of the church, shattering glass windows of a nearby van. The main entrance was blackened. Two other small bombs were thrown inside the church compound, Ayad said. The extent of damage was not clear yet, Ayad, the caretaker of the church said. There were no reports of injuries. Police officials said the assailants hurled small pipe bombs at the church, which make a loud noise, but cause little damage. The early morning shootout in Nablus came after a day of protests in the West Bank's largest city, as Hamas supporters took to the streets after prayers, shouting slogans against the pope and waving Hamas flags. Raising their hands to the sky, the more than 2,000 protesters chanted: "We put up with hunger, detention and occupation, but we won't put up with the offending the prophet. We sacrifice our lives for you prophet." Marching in the streets of Nablus, the protesters called the pope a "coward and agent of the Americans." In northern Gaza, more than 1,000 Islamic Jihad supporters shouted in praise of the prophet, and waved black flags. Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader, told the crowd that the pope's comments "indicate that this pope doesn't understand Islam or the prophet." In Ramallah, hundreds of Hamas supporters marched around the city center. Churches in the West Bank and Gaza have been attacked by firebombs and gunfire in recent days, as part of a Muslim uproar over remarks by Pope Benedict XVI last week, seen as insulting to Islam.

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