Churches in West Bank attacked

 A church in Tulkarem was slightly damaged by an arson attack on Saturday night. Another church in the village of Tubas was attacked with firebombs and partially burned. On Saturday, groups of mainly young men had hurled firebombs and opened fire at five churches in the West Bank and Gaza, sparking concerns for the safety of Palestinian Christians. Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, yesterday appealed for calm. He said: "All Palestinian citizens must prevent all harm to all Christian churches on Palestinian land. Our Christian brothers are citizens of Palestine. They are Palestinians." The violence began last week after Pope Benedict, in a talk rejecting religious motivation for violence, cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman", particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith." On Friday 2,000 people marched in downtown Gaza City to protest. The Christian population in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, has gone down dramatically in recent years to about 50,000. or two per cent of the Palestinian population. Bishop Alexious of St Perfidious church, a 1,425 year-old Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, said most worshippers stayed away from services yesterday, after the church was repeatedly hit by homemade explosives on Friday. The attacks on the church were the first in recent memory and a spokesman said he thought the situation would return to normal soon.

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