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J'lem archbishop: Israel targets mosque today, church tomorrow

Sept. 27, 2009 10:40 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2009 3:38 P.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma'an – Archbishop Atallah Hanna, one of the highest-ranking Christian clergymen in Jerusalem, declared Sunday's violence near the Al-Aqsa Mosque a dark premonition of what he said were Israel's plans for the city.

"What is being planned for Jerusalem is very dangerous," the archbishop said in a statement. "What happened today at the Al-Aqsa yard is a dangerous indicator of what Israeli authorities intend to work toward on Al-Aqsa, in particular, and in Jerusalem, in general."

Dozens of Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces were injured in clashes after a group of reportedly right-wing religious Jews entered the Al-Aqsa compound ahead of the holy day of Yom Kippur. Jerusalem police used stun grenades and batons to disperse stone-throwing protesters inside and near the mosque.

"We, as Christian Palestinians and Jerusalemites, cannot keep watching with our hands folded in the face of what happened today," Hanna continued. "Today it was Al-Aqsa; tomorrow it will be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher." "The [Israeli] occupation and its racism does not exclude anyone."

Hanna was ordained Archbishop of Sebastia in 2005 for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which Orthodox Christians consider the mother church of all of Christendom.

The archbishop reaffirmed "the solidarity of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem and all of the Holy Land with their comrades, the Muslims… Targeting them is the same as [targeting] us; attacking them is attacking us."

"We are not strangers in our city. We are not guests. The stranger is the one who came and colonized this country," Hanna added. "We are the owners of this land and we will stay on it because this is our homeland, this is our Jerusalem, and these are our holy sites."
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