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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

In what many consider to be one of the most notorious holy site desecrations in recent history, nearly 100 Palestinian terrorists forced their way inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April 2002, while fleeing a massive Israeli anti-terror operation. They took more than 200 nuns and priests hostage for 39 days. The church is one of Christianity’s most sacred sites.

WorldNetDaily this week caught up with Jihad Jaara, former Bethlehem chief for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group and the leader of the Church of Nativity siege. He is currently living in exile in Ireland.

Klein: There was enormous outcry in the Muslim world last May when an American magazine reported, but later retracted, a story claiming United States interrogators in Cuba flushed a Koran down the toilet.

But priests holed up with you in the church told reporters your group used pages of the Bible as toilet paper. Explain this seeming double standard.

Jaara: I am not ready to hear these dirty accusations. It is completely untrue [that we used the Bible as toilet paper]. We believe in the Bible and cannot do such a thing. On the contrary, the priests and monks had allowed us to pray our Muslim prayers, which meant Muslims praying in this very holy site to the Christians. This proves that the relations inside the church between us and those responsible in the church were excellent.

You were armed. Your group is responsible for scores of violent attacks. Perhaps the priests and nuns inside with you were afraid for their lives and had no choice but to let you pray in their church?

This is nonsense. What prevented the priests from going out was the Israeli army.

Did your group deface the church while you were holed up inside?

No, not at all. We could not deface a place that is very holy to our Christian brothers toward whom we feel that we owe very much….

The church siege took place in front of the world media. There is plenty of video footage of the condition the church was in when the ordeal finally ended. It was a left in shambles.

It is not a secret that inside the church there was a very serious lack of food. I don’t remember that there were such problems as you describe.

As for the conditions in which we left the church, it is true there was a lot of dirt but it is normal to the conditions in which we were living.

Explain why Christians accounted for upwards of 90 percent of Bethlehem for years until the Palestinian Authority took control of the city in 1995. Immediately Christians started fleeing the city. Now the population is about 20 to 25 percent Christian. Just what caused the vast majority of Bethlehem’s Christians to flee right after the Palestinians took control?

Jaara: This is the responsibility of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli cruelty…. I reject your attitude that makes a separation between Muslims and Christians.

But this is clearly not the Muslim attitude on the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Waqf was given some control over the Mount, and now Jews and Christians are entirely barred from praying there even though Jews consider the Mount their holiest site. Jews and Christians can only visit at cetain times on certain days. There are many restrictions.

There is a difference between the Al Aqsa Mosque and any other case. All these arguments about the existence of the Jewish Temple is a big lie. Not in the Koran, neither in the Christian Bible, is there a place called the Temple. It has not existed and it is not mentioned.

* * * *

Even though the terror group Islamic Jihad took responsibility for last week’s suicide bombing at an Israeli checkpoint that killed an Israeli soldier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was involved in the attack, which was intended to kill Israeli civilians during Chanukah celebrations, sources close to the group told WND.

“Al Aqsa openly assists Islamic Jihad. They wanted to be involved in the preparing of the suicide belt for the honor of taking part in a martyrdom operation,” a senior Palestinian source said. Al Aqsa is the declared military wing of Abbas’s Fatah party.

Any Al Aqsa involvement in Thursday’s attack would be a significant embarrassment for Abbas, who has pledged to fight terrorism and disarm the various Palestinian terror groups.

Abu Carmel, a West Bank Al Aqsa leader, said: “We coordinate and collaborate [with Islamic Jihad] very often. It is true that we have excellent relations with our brothers in the Islamic Jihad. We felicitate our brothers in their heroic attacks, and we promise not to leave them alone in the campaign that Israel is leading against them.”

* * * *

Theofilos III, enthroned last month as Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem in spite of Israeli objections, tried last week to sabotage the Jewish state’s presidential Christmas party by telling priests to boycott the event, according to the patriarch currently recognized by Israel.

Theofilos is attempting to succeed Irineos, whom church officials tried to oust in May by holding new patriarchal elections amid allegations Irineos leased church land in Jerusalem to Jewish groups. The leases, signed last year for a period of 98 years, include two hotels that comprise a large section of the Jaffa Gate, the principal entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.

The property transfer enraged the church’s significant Palestinian membership, who claim Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He is a co-host of ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show and can be heard frequently on American radio.

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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