Tensions between Coptic Christians of Jerusalem and Israeli occupation forces poured into the streets today during a protest against the Israeli government’s decision to deny the church the right to conduct needed renovation work inside the holy site.
Local sources reported the incident saying Israeli forces and police assaulted several Coptic Orthodox priests in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, and forcefully detained one of them.
The assault by Israeli occupation forces started after the Church organised a peaceful protest near Deir Al-Sultan Monastery, located on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, against an Israeli decision denying the church the right to conduct essential repair work and renovation.Israeli official’s sparked angered after aggravating the already sensitive issue by conducting unauthorised renovation work for the Ethiopian Coptic Church section without the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Palestine News Network citing local sources reported that the occupation forces suppressed the protest and attacked a number of priests and participants before arresting one of the priests.
Eyewitnesses said that Israeli soldiers and police officers surrounded the priests who were protesting, before assaulting and pushing them with excessive use of force, causing them several injuries, Ma’an News Agency reported.
Witnesses added that the Israeli police forcibly removed the priests and detained one of them, before allowing the Israeli municipality workers into the holy site.
The Islamic Christian Committee to Defend Jerusalem and Holy Sites condemned the assault on the Coptic Orthodox priests and denounced the intervention of Israeli authorities in the renovation works of the holy site. They pointed to East Jerusalem’s status as an occupied territory and that the area is subjected to the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL).
The committee called upon the Egyptian government and the Christian world to immediately intervene to stop these attacks and prevent occupation forces entering the holy site under the pretext of restoration since the Coptic Orthodox Church is the only authorised body to do so.
The committee further called on the world to stand by the Palestinian right to sovereignty over its land in the holy city and the rest of its occupied territories and to stop the measures carried out by the Israeli occupation in violation of the resolutions of international law and international humanitarian law.
The attack on Coptic Christians over this renovation project is likely to be viewed as another sign of Israeli attempt to expropriate Christian sites. Relations between leaders of the three main churches in Jerusalem and Israel soured last summer after a draft bill was presented to the government that proposed to expropriate church land in the Holy City.