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16 February 2008

Vandals trash library of Gaza City's YMCA, director says; no claim of responsibility

5f3defd65ded41446fc65818f4f1cd59.jpgGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Vandals set off explosives inside the library of Gaza's YMCA early Friday, severely damaging the one-story building and shaking Gaza's tiny Christian minority

There was no claim of responsibility, but the attack came at a time of protests in the Muslim world against the reproduction of cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers.

The attack on the YMCA was carried out early Friday. Masked gunmen came to the YMCA compound just after midnight and threatened two guards with pistols, said one of the watchmen, Rizek Ajrami.

The attackers then set off what Ajrami described as two homemade explosive devices. One left a small crater in the floor of the library and tore holes into the walls and ceiling. Books were strewn on the floor, covered by chunks of plaster, wicker bookshelves were overturned and wires dangled from the ceiling.

Hamas police declined comment. Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers have repeatedly pledged to protect Gaza's about 3,000 Christians, a tiny minority in a territory of 1.4 million people. Christian institutions have been targeted several times since Hamas won parliament elections in 2006, and a Christian activist was killed in October.

Christians say they fear more attacks and, in the long run, for their future in Gaza. The community has been hit hard by emigration in recent years, with many Christians seeking jobs and a better life abroad.

Sitting in the courtyard of the YMCA compound Friday, engineering student George Tarazi, 24, a Christian, said he had an offer to work in Dubai once he graduates. He said he would not leave if he had better work prospects in Gaza. Tarazi said he believed a small group of extremists carried out Friday's attack, and that he was worried the number of extremists in Gaza could grow.

YMCA director Issa Saba said it was too soon to speculate about suspects, and insisted that Muslim-Christian ties remain strong. He said members of the security forces had inspected the scene and promised to investigate.

The bombing of the library came at a time of protests in the Muslim world against the reproduction of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Denmark.

Denmark's leading newspapers had reproduced the cartoons of Islam's prophet in a gesture of solidarity after Danish police said they uncovered a plot to kill the artist. The original drawings had sparked deadly riots across the Muslim world in 2006.

In the Gaza refugee camp of Jebaliya, thousands of Hamas supporters staged a protest march Friday against the re-publication of the cartoons

POSTED BY /  http://www.iht.com/

07:45 Posted in Middle East | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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