Subj: AFP: Christian mayor attacked by thugs amid mounting tension
Date: 10/17/99 8:58:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Christian mayor attacked by thugs amid mounting tension in Nazareth
NAZARETH, Israel, Oct 17 (AFP) - Muslim thugs
have beaten up the
Christian mayor of Nazareth amid mounting communal tension in the
Israeli Arab town over plans for a new mosque hard by one of
Christendom's holiest sites, aides said Sunday.
Mayor Ramez Jaraisi was slightly wounded in the arm when he was set
upon after a public meeting late Saturday, the head of his office,
Safwan Fahum, told AFP.
"The attackers first insulted him, then punched him. They were
carrying iron bars and one of them was even brandishing a pistol,"
Among his attackers the mayor recognized "the brother of the deputy
leader of the Islamic Movement group on the town council who has
been involved in similar incidents in the past without ever being
troubled by the police."
In a statement the mayor blamed the attack on the local leadership
of the Islamic Movement but added that he planned no formal
complaint to Israeli police because he had no confidence in them.
Police announced nonetheless that they had arrested two suspects in
connection with the attack -- they declined to give the suspects'
names or religions.
It was the second attack on the Christian mayor in recent months --
in June he was beaten up close to the city council offices.
Fahum charged that in recent weeks the prayer leaders of no less
than three mosques in the town had called for acts of violence
against Jeraisi in their sermons at main weekly Muslim prayers on
Jeraisi has angered Islamic activists in the town with plans for a
large plaza next to the Church of the Annunciation to accommodate
the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims expected to visit it during
the millennium year.
The Islamic activists want the site for a new mosque to celebrate a
local Muslim holy man and have erected a temporary place of worship
in a vast tent on the site.
The Israeli government has agreed to allow construction of a small
mosque once the millennium celebrations are over but it has also
ordered the tented mosque pulled down by November 8 warning of
"unilateral steps" if it is not.
The Israeli decision prompted the town's Islamic Movement spokesman
Aziz Shehadeh to warn of bloodshed. "There will be something that
people will remember for 100 years," he said.
But it also angered Christians around the world, prompting the
Vatican to warn that it was "of no help" to Pope John Paul II's to
kick off a millennium pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a visit to
The town is where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus spent
his childhood and the angel Gabriel told Mary that she had been
chosen by God to bear him.