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Archbishop calls for 'urgent' action to save Christian properties from Jewish settlers 

The Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, December 2020 (Photo source: MEMO)
The Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, December 2020 [MEMO]

The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem has called for urgent and unified action to nullify suspicious deals through which important real estate owned by the church in occupied Jerusalem has apparently been sold to illegal settler associations. Archbishop Atallah Hanna insisted that this is a political issue, not a legal one.

In a public statement, the patriarch explained that the Orthodox properties that the illegal Jewish settlers have stolen from their owners are an authentic part of the Christian Quarter and the Orthodox Patriarchate. This was a reference to the Imperial and Petra Hotels and other Palestinian-owned properties in the Jaffa Gate area.

"We do not believe that the recent decision by an Israeli court is the end of the road. The issue of this real estate is not a legal issue, but rather a political issue and an issue directly related to the ancient and authentic Christian presence in this sacred spot in the world," said Father Hanna. "Whoever leaked these real estate properties is not authorised to do so and does not have powers of this kind."

The Christian endowments in Palestine are not a commodity offered in a public auction, he added, but are part of the history and heritage of the Holy City and every corner and every inch in Jerusalem city means "history, heritage and authenticity" to the Palestinians.

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The archbishop said that there is a need for political pressure, as well as movement from international churches. The Orthodox Church, he pointed out, also relies on Jordan's King Abdullah II, whose kingdom is the official custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments in Jerusalem, in addition to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "There is a need for pressure from several parties in order to nullify these sinister and illegal deals."

Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to nullify the seizure of three assets by the Ateret Cohanim settler organisation in the Jaffa Gate area in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem. All Israeli settlers and the settlements in which they live are illegal under international law.

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