bethlehem churches 88.
(photo credit: )
An attack on an 80-year-old Christian woman in Gaza City has triggered renewed fears among the Gaza Strip's 2,500-strong Christian community.
Claire Farah Tarazi was the latest victim of anti-Christian attacks that have increased in the Gaza Strip since Hamas took full control of the area in June.
Leaders of the Christian community condemned the assault and appealed to Hamas to make an effort to protect Christians.
Tarazi said a masked man dressed in black clothes had knocked on her door late at night and demanded all her money.
"He was carrying a club and a sharp tool," she said. "As soon as I opened the door, he pushed me inside and shouted: 'Where is the money, you infidel?' I shouted back: 'I'm not an infidel - I'm a proud Palestinian Arab.'"
Tarazi said the assailant had beaten her on her hands with the club, demanding that she hand over all her money and jewelry.
"I was so terrified that I gave him two golden bracelets, a cellphone and a few hundred shekels," she said. "But the man said this was not enough and hit me hard on the head with a tool he was carrying until I started bleeding." He then locked her in her bedroom and started searching the house for money and valuable items, she added.
"After he left the house, I managed to open another door into the bedroom he hadn't noticed," she said. "Then I went to the neighbors and asked for help."
Tarazi's relatives told The Jerusalem Post it was evident that she had been targeted because of her faith.
"The fact that the attacker called her an infidel speaks for itself," one of them said. "He clearly knew that this was a Christian woman living alone. He would not have dared to do the same thing to a Muslim woman."
Representatives of various women's groups in the Gaza Strip who visited Tarazi expressed shock and called on the Hamas government to halt attacks on Christians. They expressed concern over increased attacks on Christians in light of the absence of law and order in the Gaza Strip.
The assault on the elderly Christian woman is the latest in a series of attacks against Christians over the past few months. Since the Hamas takeover, a Christian school and a church have been targeted by Muslims.
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 equipment."
Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, adding 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 said.
Musalam 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."