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December 24, 2014 2:09 pm

Fear of Islamist Attacks Overshadows Christmas Celebrations for Christians in Gaza

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Gaza's Church of the Latin Convent was attacked by Islamists in February. Photo: Twitter

Palestinian Christians in Gaza will mark tomorrow’s Christmas holiday discreetly, as they are both wary of overt celebrations in the wake of the destructive war with Israel over the summer and fearful of potentially violent reactions from Islamist groups in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

“Even if there aren’t many of them, like those in the Islamic State movement, they don’t want us to celebrate our Christian feasts,” a Christian named George, who declined to give his family name, told the AFP news agency.  “And they wouldn’t hesitate to attack us, as they have already done.”

This was a reference to to an incident in February, when unidentified attackers left an explosive device inside the compound of the Church of the Latin Convent in Gaza City, which includes a church, a school, a nursery, a rectory and a nunnery. A threatening message – “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross” – was scrawled over the gate to the compound. As Middle East website Al Monitor noted at the time, “the Christian community in Gaza has been subjected to a number of unorganized attacks. These attacks have led to a decrease in the Christian population in the Gaza Strip. There are 1,500 Christians in Gaza, while in the mid-1990s there were an estimated 5,000. There are four churches in the Gaza Strip, yet only two are operational.”

Israel has this year granted around 500 permits to Palestinian Christians, allowing them to travel from Gaza to the West Bank so they can visit Bethlehem’s Nativity church and attend the traditional midnight mass. “We’re going to celebrate Christmas in order to forget the suffering of the war,” a 60-year-old Umm George, who lost her sister in the conflict and who will be traveling to Bethlehem, told AFP.

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