Jews and Christians Targeted by Islamists in Nazareth

Published: June 28th 2010
in News » Israel

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth
Pic: WikiMedia Commons
Ahmed Ali Ahmed who yelled "Long live Osama bin Laden" at his hearing

Seven residents of Nazareth who were arrested on suspicion of being involved in a series of nationalistic related crimes operated on behalf of global jihad and even tried to join al-Qaeda.


The seven were arrested a month and a half ago by Israeli security forces following a lengthy investigation. Their names are: Asim Muhhamad Alan (23), Abed al-Rahman Izz al-Din Abu Salim (19), Udei Mahmoud Azzam (23), Omar Ali Kahili (22), Ahmed Ali Ahmed (21), Haider Zaidana (26), and Raleb Ganayim (22).


Among the very serious crimes attributed to three of the seven is the murder of taxi driver Yefim Weinstein in November 2009. According to police, the three suspects committed the murder in order to avenge what they called “the killing of Arabs at the hands of Jews.”


Following the murder, two of the suspects, Ahmed and Ganayim, attempted to enter Somalia with the intent of training with terrorists there and fighting the “heretics”. Somalia is a hotbed of terrorist activity due to radical Islamists belonging to Al-Shabbab, a militant group with ties to al-Qaeda.


The two were arrested at the border between Kenya and Somalia and were extradited to Israel, which allowed Shin Bet operatives to detain them upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. Following an investigation the remaining suspects were arrested as well.


The suspects’ questioning revealed that during the last two years they were involved in a series of crimes against both Jews and Christians. The seven were charged with torching tourist buses rented by Christian pilgrims. They are also accused of hurling grenades and Molotov cocktails at homes and businesses of Christians in Nazareth. As well, Ynet reported that they are suspected of plotting to murder a Christian resident of Nazareth since, according to them, he had “cursed the prophet”. Police said that the seven planned to decapitate the man and document it on videotape, but later changed the plan and decided to kidnap and bury him in the woods.


Though they became apprehensive and did not follow through on this specific plan, they are still accused of additional crimes, among them firebombing a Nazareth café after an argument with one of its patrons, as well as tying up and stabbing a pizza delivery man and stealing his wallet.


Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, is a centre of Christian pilgrimage since it is described as the childhood home of Jesus in the New Testament. In 2008 it had a population of 66,000, of which 70% was Muslim and the rest Christian. The city is home to many monasteries and churches, among them the largest Christian church in the Middle East, the Church of the Annunciation.


Though relations between the Muslims and Christians in Nazareth are generally peaceful, there have been some conflicts between members of the two religions over the years. One such conflict occurred when the Muslims built a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, which according to Christian belief is the site the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary the future birth of Jesus. The mosque was eventually torn down by Israeli authorities.


Police said the network members admitted to the crimes and led investigators to their weapons cache. The seven suspects’ remand was extended by a Nazareth court on Monday until August 10. During the hearing, Ahmed was asked whether he hated Christians. He responded with “Long live Osama bin Laden”, according to the report in Ynet.

Related articles: (Nazareth, Terrorist cell, al-Qaeda, Al-Shabbab)
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