Thousands of Muslim worshippers staged anti-pope marches in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza on Friday, waving green Hamas banners and denouncing the pontiff as a coward.
Pope Benedict XVI had touched off a furor in the Muslim world last week by quoting a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammad, as "evil and inhuman," and branded Islam a religion spread by the sword.
The pope later said he didn't mean to malign Islam, but has not issued a direct apology, as demanded by Muslim leaders. Earlier in the week, protesters attacked seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza, causing little damage and no injuries.
Late Friday, assailants hurled three small pipe bombs at a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City. A church official said there was little damage to the church, but no injuries. One bomb was hurled at the facade of the church, two others inside its compound. It was not clear who the assailants were.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian police guarding a Roman Catholic church exchanged fire with wouldbe assailants and eventually chased them away, residents said. Intensive shooting was heard for about 20 minutes, said Abdel Salam Abu Rob, who lives near the church. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage to the shrine.
At Islam's third holiest shrine, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, hundreds of worshippers on Friday hoisted black flags and banners that read, "Conquering Rome is the answer." Protesters chanted, "The army of Islam will return." The march dispersed peacefully.
In Nablus, 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.
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