Author Topic: Unrest after Church of the Annunciation attack  (Read 1464 times)

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Offline TomS

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Unrest after Church of the Annunciation attack
« on: March 03, 2006, 04:43:37 PM »
Unrest after Israel church attack

Scuffles broke out in the town of Nazareth in northern Israel after three Israelis set off firecrackers in the Church of the Annunciation.

The incident during a service late on Friday caused panic among worshippers and sparked angry protests outside.

Large numbers of police went to the church to rescue the attackers, who took shelter inside from the crowds.

Christians believe the church, one of their holiest sites, marks the place where the birth of Jesus was foretold.

'Huge noise'

The three, two women and a man, entered the church pushing a pram filled with fireworks and small gas canisters and began throwing them, reports said.

This sparked panic among worshippers, some of whom were said to have attacked the group.

 It went on for six or seven minutes - I thought we were going to die

Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, in Nazareth at the time, said the intruders threw something that made a "huge noise" into the church, and the police came to defend them from the anger of the crowd.

An eyewitness, Rouan, said she heard a "boom".

"It went on for six or seven minutes," she was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "I thought we were going to die."

The blast caused black marks on the walls, but no major damage, she said.

'Family members'

Hundreds of people then gathered outside the church to protest against the incident, preventing the three from leaving.

Clashes broke out and protesters were said to have damaged an ambulance which arrived on the scene.

Officials said five policemen were injured and a special commando unit was called in to reinforce local police, who used tear gas on protesters.

At least two people were injured in the clashes.

Israeli media said the three intruders were members of the same family.

One of the assailants was known by police to suffer from mental illness and to have threatened to attack churches in the past, reports said.

"I can say that they have been extricated and we are taking them in for questioning," a senior police officer, Yaakov Zigdon, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Mr Ezra said he hoped city and church officials could "bring this matter to an end without further incident".

The Church of the Annunciation marks the place where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/03/03 20:27:01 GMT

Offline TomS

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Re: Unrest after Church of the Annunciation attack
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2006, 04:47:16 PM »
Three Jewish Attackers Toss Firecrackers Into Nazareth Church, Sparking Riot

Friday, March 03, 2006

NAZARETH, Israel — Three Jewish attackers disguised as pilgrims began throwing firecrackers inside one of Christianity's holiest sites Friday, police said, sparking a riot in this biblical town in northern Israel.

At least seven people were injured as police struggled to bring the situation under control.

Officials said the attackers were disguised as Christian pilgrims when they entered the Basilica of the Annunciation and threw the firecrackers.

The attackers remained barricaded in the church in the Israeli-Arab town late Friday, as several thousand angry protesters blocked police from entering.

Rescue workers said at least two people were wounded in the unrest, and others suffered from tear gas inhalation. Five police officers also were injured, officials said.

Police said the attackers remained inside the church, and the crowd prevented police from entering the building to arrest them. Two or three people were believed to be inside, officials said.

When an ambulance arrived, the crowd attacked the vehicle, breaking windows and forcing it to turn away. Police said special commando units were being dispatched to the scene.

Dan Ronen, the police chief for northern Israel, said the three attackers were Jewish, though a motive for the attack remained unclear. He said his forces were still trying to get the three people — believed to be a man and two women — out of the church.

The church is at the site where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary and foretold the birth of Jesus.

Nazareth, the boyhood town of Jesus, is in northern Israel. It is inhabited by Christian and Muslim Arabs and religious tensions have boiled over in the past, with the two sides in a dispute over attempts to build a mosque next to the church.

Israeli Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population.

While they are entitled to Israeli citizenship, in contrast to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Arabs complain of systematic discrimination at the hands of the Jewish majority.

Offline Fr. George

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Re: Unrest after Church of the Annunciation attack
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2006, 07:16:19 PM »
Wow - some people have no consideration; and the unruly mob doesn't help things either.  Lord, have mercy.
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Offline MBZ

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Re: Unrest after Church of the Annunciation attack
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2006, 06:56:45 AM »
Hi all!

Egad...there's no shortage of nutburgers in this world!

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday criticized the Islamic leadership in Israel for using an attack Friday at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth for political purposes.

Three members of the same family are suspected of entering the church and setting off fireworks during a prayer service. Ensuing riots left 13 police officers and 13 civilians with light injuries. Four cars were also set on fire, including two police vehicles.

"An attempt was made to gain political ground by this incident," Olmert told a debate on the incident during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "It is almost absurd when the Islamic leadership, which is known for being intolerant toward Christianity, leads a demonstration caused by a spaced out couple and uses it as political leverage during the election period."

Olmert called for all involved parties to "act responsibly and with restraint, and not turn the unfortunate event - which happily ended calmly - into a religious confrontation which bears no relation to the incident."

The acting prime minister went on to emphasize that, "since its beginning, Israel has always upheld the freedom of religious practice, demonstrating patience towards all religions practicing in the state. That is our creed and way, and we will continue to act accordingly."

Olmert told the cabinet that during the incident he had been in touch with the public security minister, the chief of police, the mayor of Nazareth and church officials. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also explained the circumstances of the incident to representatives at the Vatican, Olmert said.

The Tiberias Magistrate's Court issued Saturday evening a 15-day remand extension for the three family members suspected of detonating fireworks in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth the night before.

One of the suspects, Violet Habibi, collapsed on the way out of the courthouse. An ambulance arrived at the scene to give her medical treatment.

Police rescued the Habibi family members from the church after they detonated fireworks during a prayer service. Ensuing riots lightly injured 13 police officers and 13 civilians. Four cars were set on fire, including two police vehicles.

Haim Habibi, husband of Violet and father of Odelia, the third suspect, said during the court hearing, "I have nothing against Christians or Muslims," adding that he would like to thank the security forces who protected him from rioters during the incident. "I didn't do anything... I didn't hurt anyone. All I want is my three children that were cruelly taken from me by the state."

Violet said during the hearing, "We had no choice, we wanted our baby back. We're not against anyone, we've never committed a crime or an injustice. We are in serious distress and I hope we will be forgiven."

The hearing revealed that Haim Habibi took the lead role in planning the incident, and that Odelia had asked her parents not to go ahead with the plan. She also said that she was beaten by worshippers after the act.

Attorney Pninat Yanay, who is representing the family, said that the couple are stunned by the repercussions of the incident and want to apologize for what they've done. "Since their child was taken from them at the beginning of the week, they have been wandering around dazed and rejected by various courts. They are very sorry about the incident and feel indebted to the church, which has helped them financially to find shelter in hotels when they had nowhere to go," she said.

Odelia told police earlier that the act was motivated by "economic distress." Jerusalem welfare services are familiar with the couple, after their children were taken away from them.

Thousands marched through Nazareth on Saturday afternoon in protest of the attempted attack on the church.

Several thousand people - led by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, local Christian leaders and Arab lawmakers - joined the protest, snaking through the town's narrow streets to the basilica. Marchers clapped and sang songs, amid the chiming of church bells.

Participants held up Palestinian flags and banners with slogans such as "Israel breeds hate" and "they accuse us of terrorism but they do terrorism." The demonstration ended peacefully and in a bid to avoid raising tensions, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered police stayed away from the event.

At the end of the parade, Sabbah said that Israel's existence depends on relations between ethnic groups, and demanded that the government ensure the ability of all sides to live in peace.

Tensions continued to run high on Saturday, and the police decided to postpone 11 soccer games that were supposed to take place in the north of the country.

According to police, Haim Eliyahu Habibi, 44, has a history of mental illness. The assailants were not believed to be linked to any ultra-nationalist Jewish group.

The government will meet Sunday to discuss the incident and hear reports from senior defense officials.

According to Amakim District Police chief Commander Yaakov Zigdon, the family members got hold of the firecrackers in the Tel Aviv area. A small gas canister was found in the Tel Aviv hotel in which they were staying before the attack.

Towards evening, Habibi, his Christian wife Violet and their daugther hid the firecrackers and small gas canisters in a baby stroller and detonated the firecrackers inside the church during a special prayer for the opening of Lent. They were disguised as Christian pilgrims.

Habibi is known to have a history of mental illness and has threatened to attack churches in the past, inlcuding Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Habibi had even made his way to the Ramallah headquarters of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat several years ago, claiming that Israeli authorities were attempting to confiscate his daughter. At the time, Habibi told Arafat he wanted to remain in PA-controlled territory.

Assailant taken out disguised as policeman

Large police forces, including special riot-control units, were dispatched to the scene to repel thousands of people who gathered in an attempt to enter the compound and attack the suspects. Police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. After being held up for more than three hours inside the church, police finally managed to extract the three. According to one report, the man was taken out disguised as a policeman.

Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said the attack did not appear to have nationalist motivations and that he had been in touch with local Christian leaders to calm the tensions. "It is very important to put out this small flame so that won't become a huge fire," he told Channel 10 TV.

A witness who identified herself only by her first name, Rouan, said the church was crowded with worshippers praying for the coming Easter holiday at the time of the attack. "We heard a boom. It went on for six or seven minutes," she said. "I thought we were going to die." She said the blast left black spots on the walls inside, but did not appear to cause any major damage.

Nazareth Mayor Ramez Juraisi and Deputy Mayor Ali Salaam also attempted to persuade the crowds to disperse.

Ezra said police efforts to extricate the three assailants were initially prevented by the large crowd. A Magen David Adom ambulance crew was also unable to leave the church due to the angry mob.

At one point, the crowd attacked an ambulance, smashing the vehicle's windows.

By 8:45 P.M., Police Major General Dan Ronen, commander of the northern district, said that the situation around the church had been brought under control. In the wake of the incident, police commissioner Moshe Karadi ordered security beefed up at holy sites around Israel.

Wadiya Abu Nasser, Advisor to the Latin Archbishop, told Haaretz that a full report of the incident had been passed on to the Vatican and directly to the pope's office. Abu Nasser reported Vatican sources describing the incident as very serious.

Khalil Hadad, a journalist situated in the church, told Haaretz the structure was lightly damaged when a stampede broke out and worshippers attempted to flee after the firecrackers went off.

Israeli Arab MKs responded angrily to the attack and complained that Habibi had not been arrested after his past threats to attack churches.

The basilica is built at the site of the Annunciation, where according to Christian faith the Virgin Mary was told by archangel Gabriel she had been chosen by God to bear His son, Jesus.

Nazareth, the boyhood town of Jesus, is located in northern Israel. It is inhabited by Christian and Muslim Arabs, and religious tensions have boiled over in the past, with the two sides in a dispute over attempts to build a mosque next to the church.


Even though the gentleman responsible & his family appear to be nutburgers, as an orthodox Jew, this incident sickens and shames me. Of course, what is no less sickening and shameful is the attempt with which our Israeli Arab MKs (Members of Knesset; none of whom is anything close to being a religious Christian) are rushing to make lurid, crude & inflammatory political capital out of the incident as they compete against each other for votes ahead of our March 28 elections.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav issued the following statement:

President Moshe Katsav condemns the incident that occurred yesterday (Friday), 3.3.06, in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

President Katsav urges that the incident not be allowed to harm the good relations between Israel’s Jewish and Christian citizens ( and emphasizes that the State of Israel is committed to maintaining Christian, Islamic and Jewish holy sites ( alike.

President Katsav calls on community and religious leaders to work to calm tensions following yesterday’s incident, which has caused shock and revulsion among all of Israel’s citizens.

President Katsav spoke this evening (Saturday), 4.3.06, with Custos of the Holy Land V.R. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. The President emphasized his regret over the incident and stressed that both the Christian establishment and Christians know very well that Israel is committed to maintaining the holy places and freedom of worship. President Katsav added that it would be necessary to draw the necessary conclusions in order to prevent such exceptional incidents in the future.

Be well!

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