Christian leaders meet Hamas to appeal for end to suicide attacks

 A delegation of Christian clerics led by Jerusalem patriarch Michel Sabbah made a rare visit last Saturday to the spiritual leader of the militant Hamas movement, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in a bid to stop suicide bombings against Israeli targets. In the two-hour meeting at Yassin's house, the patriarch attempted to revive consultations among Palestinian leaders to seek an end to the attacks, said a Patriarchate official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. There had been speculation that Palestinian militant groups were on the verge of declaring an end to suicide attacks before a July 23 air strike on Gaza City that killed the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Salah Shehadeh and 14 others, among them nine children. The impending declaration was apparently called off in the wake of the attack and all consultations put on hold. Hamas claimed responsibility for the subsequent bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in which seven people, including five American citizens, were killed and for the suicide bombing on an Egged bus in the north of Israel, in which nine people died. The group said the attacks were retaliation for the killing of Shehadeh. Sabbah was the first Palestinian to hold the senior church post in Israel. He has frequently criticized the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and said that Palestinian violence would not end until Israel withdrew to the borders it held before the 1967 Six-Day War. "We are not seeking promises from any human being, we are hearing and making dialogue with everyone and depend on God and our Lord Jesus Christ," Sabbah told reporters as he left Yassin's house. Yassin insisted that Hamas could not stop its attacks while Israel continued to carry out punitive policies in Palestinian towns. "We can't offer any initiative in this time while the Zionist enemy hasn't withdrawn from our land, hasn't freed the prisoners, hasn't stopped building settlements and hasn't stopped demolishing houses," Yassin said. Among those at the meeting were representatives from the Anglican and Catholic churches, Hamas spokesmen Mahmoud Zahar, Ismail Abu Shanab and Ismail Haniye. This was the second meeting between the two religious leaders. The last one took place in 1996 when Sabbah visited Yassin to congratulate him on his release from an Israeli prison. source: Olive Branch

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