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August 17, 2015

As Tensions Rise, Israeli Extremist Supports Burning Churches

Early Saturday morning Saad Dawabsha became the second member of his family to die from injuries sustained in the July 31st arson attack on his home. Dawabsha is survived by his wife and four year old son who both remain hospitalized.

In the aftermath of the arson attack tensions between settlers, the Israeli government and Palestinians have increased. Nine Israeli settlers were detained following the attack, however no arrests have been made and on Monday seven of the settlers were released. Within the past week three Israeli soldiers were injured when a Palestinian plowed his car into them, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s car was attacked in Hebron by a Israeli settler, settlers attempted to set fire to a public park in a Palestinian West Bank village, and a Bedouin tent near the West Bank city of Ramallah was set on fire. Near the Bedouin tent the words “revenge” and administrative” were spray painted on a rock in Hebrew, likely a reference to the administrative detention of settlers following the arson attack.

Israeli Leader of Extremist Organization Supports Burning Churches

Israeli Police detained Bentzi Gopstein after he made statements supporting the burning of churches as a legitimate act under Jewish law during an August 5th debate at a Jerusalem Yeshiva. Gopstein who is the head of the far-right Israeli group, Lehava was arrested with 16 other Lehava members last December on suspicion of involvement in the November arson attack on the joint Jewish-Arab Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem. Two Lehava members have since been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for the attack.

The Vatican’s Custus of the Holy Land responded to Gopstein’s statements with demands that the Israeli Attorney General and State Prosecutor charge Gopstein with incitement. The Custodian’s representative said, “[An indictment is necessary]out of consideration of the public interest and of the present danger to churches and Christian communities in the country, and the real concern of further harm to them as a result of this incitement." In addition a police complaint was filed on July 7th by the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land that enumerated attacks against churches and monasteries that have occurred over the past few years. These attacks include a June 18th arson attack on the Church of Loaves and Fishes in northern Israel. In the complaint the bishops and archbishops noted that most cases ended with no indictments being filed and often no suspects arrested.

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