Palestinian christian 22.
(photo credit: AP)
The body of a Christian official who was kidnapped over the weekend was discovered in Gaza City early Sunday, Palestinian sources said.
The man was identified as Rami Ayyad, 31, director of The Teacher's Bookshop, which is operated by the Palestinian Bible Society.
Although no group claimed responsibility for the murder, a number of Christians in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post that Ayyad had received several death threats in the past from radical Muslims who accused him of missionary activity.
His bookshop and the Palestinian Bible Society have been the targets of repeated attacks over the past two years.
They noted that attacks on members of the 2,500-strong Christian community in the Gaza Strip have increased in recent months, especially since Hamas took full control of the area.
Two weeks ago, an elderly Christian woman living in Gaza City was beaten and robbed by a masked man who accused her of being an "infidel." In Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority police are still investigating last week's stabbing of a 27-year-old Christian man, who was seriously wounded in the attack.
Shortly after the Hamas takeover, a local Christian school and a monastery were looted and set on fire.
News of Ayyad's murder shocked his friends and family and raised fears that the Hamas government, despite repeated promises, was not able to protect the local Christian community.
Ayyad went missing over the weekend, and his family and friends rushed to lodge a complaint with the Hamas security forces.
Ihab Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry - the institution responsible for security - said the body was discovered in an agricultural field known as Dunum Abu Daf, near Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood.
He refused to specify the cause of death, only saying that the body had been transferred to a local hospital for a forensic examination. However, Palestinian reporters told the Post that Ayyad had been fatally stabbed.
"This despicable crime won't pass without punishment of the perpetrators," Ghissin said. "We will pursue all those involved in this case and make sure that they are severely punished."