Residents protest, FM tries to calm storm

On Saturday, 13,500 people marched the streets of Nazareth to protest the Friday attack on the Basilica of the Annunciation, carrying signs that said "Death to the Jews" and that Christians should keep away from the area, police said. Security forces were absent from the rally, which lasted about an hour and a half, in order not to aggravate the situation, and it ended peacefully. In addition, nine football matches in the Galilee were postponed so that police could concentrate on keeping the peace in the vicinity of Nazareth. The police don't expect further demonstrations on Sunday, a spokeswoman said. President Moshe Katsav spoke with Christian leaders Saturday night, condemning the incident and saying it should not harm relations among the country's citizens, his office said. He also reaffirmed Israel's commitment to protect Christian and Muslim holy sites. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her counterpart in the Vatican on Friday evening, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, and assured him that Israel was dealing with the incident and that it would do everything to protect the holy sites. According to Livni's office, Lajolo expressed his appreciation of how Israel had dealt with the incident, and said he would inform the pope of the developments. Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas called the attack the result of "the culture of hate that the State of Israel instills in its citizens against the Palestinians, and religious places belonging to Islam and Christianity." AP contributed to this report.