Palestine government, Christians slam Israel for insufficient action on church attack

A Palestinian with his child attends a Christmas tree lighting event in Gaza City. (AFP)
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Updated 27 December 2019

Palestine government, Christians slam Israel for insufficient action on church attack

  • The man was spotted by the police when he walked into the church
  • “If the attacker committed a crime he should be sent to jail”

AMMAN: The Palestinian government and church leaders condemned the Israeli police’s handling of an incident on Tuesday — Christmas Day — when a young Jewish man armed with a knife entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Israeli police, Miki Rosenfeld, told Arab News that the incident was not dangerous and that the man was released without charge after questioning.

“An individual approached the area. He was spotted by the police when he walked into the church. The police removed him and asked him what he was doing, and it became clear from his replies and his behavior that this was an unstable man,” Rosenfeld said. “After he was questioned, he was released.”

Rosenfeld refused to name the man, claiming: “People don’t have the right to know his name because he was not arrested.” Asked if Israeli police would extend the same right of anonymity to Palestinians in similar circumstances, he declined to comment.

Hanna Issa, head of the Islamic Christian Committee for Jerusalem, told Arab News that the police’s actions were insufficient and would cause concern among local Christians and tourists.

“If the attacker committed a crime he should be sent to jail,” Issa said. “If he was mentally ill, he should be sent to a mental hospital. But in either case, he should not (have been) released.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the perpetrator was released 30 minutes after the incident.

“The church was full of Christian worshipers and tourists; the aim was to terrorize them and to indicate that Christians are not wanted in the occupied Palestinian areas,” the statement claimed.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism Rula May’ah told Arab News that the attack was part of an orchestrated campaign targeting tourism in Palestine. “This is part of a continuous set of attacks by the Israeli occupiers on our people and our holy places, but it will not succeed in affecting tourism to Palestine,” May’ah said, adding that a record 3.25 million tourists visited Bethlehem in 2019.

Rosenfeld insisted that the man armed with a knife posed no threat, and that tourism was unaffected. “Tourism in the area is functioning, thousands are able to visit the church without any problems,” he said.

Dimitri Diliani, president of the Jerusalem-based National Christian Coalition, said he held the Israeli government responsible for the incident, and for the leniency that was shown to the attacker.

“This is a ridiculous claim,” Diliani said of Rosenfeld’s remarks that the incident was not dangerous. “The Israeli police acted to protect a Jewish terrorist. There is clear evidence of Israeli institutional racism and the dehumanization of Palestinians. If (the detained man) was Palestinian, he would have been shot on the spot, even if he didn’t pose a threat — as we have witnessed many times.”

The Foreign Ministry’s statement also questioned whether the man was acting of his own accord or whether he was following someone else’s directives. “Was he sent on purpose at this special time for Christians around the world to hurt Christian tourism in the Palestinian areas?” the statement asked.


So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

Updated 27 May 2020

So-called honor killing of teen girl brings outcry in Iran

  • Iranian president Rouhani has urged his cabinet to speed up the introduction of harsher laws against such killings

TEHRAN: The so-called honor killing of a 14-year-old Iranian girl by her father, who reportedly used a farming sickle to behead her as she slept, has prompted a nationwide outcry.
Reza Ashrafi, now in custody, was apparently enraged when he killed his daughter Romina on Thursday after she ran away with 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari in Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.
In traditional societies in the Middle East, including Iran, blame would typically fall on a runaway girl for purportedly having sullied her family’s honor, rather than on an adult male luring away a child.
Romina was found five days after leaving home and taken to a police station, from where her father brought her back home. The girl reportedly told the police she feared a violent reaction from her father.
On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers featured the story prominently and the social media hashtag #RominaAshrafi reportedly has been used thousands times on social media, with most users condemning the killing.
Proposed legislation against honor killings has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran.
On Wednesday, Romina Ashrafi’s case led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to urge his Cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such killings and he pushed for speedy adoption of relevant legislation.
There is little data on honor killings in Iran, where local media occasionally report on such cases. Under the law, girls can marry after the age of 13, though the average age of marriage for Iranian women is 23. It is not known how many women and young girls are killed by family members or close relatives because of their actions, perceived as violating conservative Islamic norms on love and marriage.
Iran’s judiciary said Romina’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the current law, her father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Iran’s vice president in charge of family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, expressed hope that a bill with harsher punishments will soon be in the final stages of approval.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, special assistant to citizens’ rights in the presidential directorate on women and family affairs, on Wednesday told the khabaronline.ir news website “We should revise the idea that home is a safe place for children and women. Crimes that happen against women in the society are less than those that happen in the homes.”