Thursday, January 22, 2009

After war, Christians in Gaza express fear of emboldened Hamas

Christians and moderate Muslims quietly expressed concern about what their place in the Gaza Strip would be now that Hamas remains strong after a three-week Israeli offensive, according to Catholic News Service. Several businessmen who spoke to Catholic News Service questioned the outcome of the war, which began with Israeli bombardments Dec. 27 and ended with separate unilateral cease-fires -- declared by Israel Jan. 18 and Hamas Jan. 19.

"Hamas is still in government and there are guns everywhere," one businessman noted, hinting that Israel's offensive to destroy Hamas' power base was a failure.

Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist militia and political party that states as its goals the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine, remains armed. News reports said Israel failed to destroy the Hamas network of underground tunnels into Egypt.

At first Christians cautiously told CNS that although they were concerned about the future until now the Christian community had not been troubled by Hamas. But as the conversations continued, they recounted how unknown extremists had killed a member of a Baptist church in 2007 and there had been numerous violent attacks against Christian institutions and businesses, such as Internet cafes, viewed as Western.

All those interviewed by CNS expressed concern for their safety and insisted on complete anonymity. "There is a lot we want to say but we are afraid," several said. If European countries would offer them political asylum, they said they would accept it. MORE HERE.

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