Palestinian gunmen Saturday attacked and set fire to the Young Men's Christian Association headquarters in Qalqiliya, a large West Bank city controlled by Hamas.
Local government sources identified the attackers as members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, saying the identities of the gunmen are "well known" to Qalqiliya's security forces, which are controlled by the Hamas government.
Saturday's arson follows a series of warnings by the Muslim leadership of Qalqilya accusing the city's YMCA of missionary activity and demanding the Christian organization close its offices and leave town or face likely Muslim violence.
According to local reports, the gunmen Saturday afternoon destroyed the locks on the YMCA's entrance gates, crushed the gates, then entered the building and set it ablaze. Local fire brigades reportedly rushed to the scene and stopped the fire before it spread to neighboring buildings. The building sustained serious damage, YMCA officials said.
Qalqiliya police say they opened an investigation into the incident and would hunt down and arrest the attackers (who pay their salaries - EoZ)
In April major Muslim organizations in Qalqiliya in conjunction with local mosques, the city's Mufti and municipal leaders, sent a letter to the interior minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority accusing the YMCA of missionary activities and demanding the Palestinian government immediately shut down the Christian offices.
It warned, "The act of these institutions of the YMCA, including attempting to convert Muslims in our city, will bring violence and tension."
Three days before the petition was delivered several Molotov cocktails were thrown at Qalqiliya's YMCA. Local political sources said the Molotov attacks followed Friday sermons in dozens of Qalqiliya mosques in which preachers called upon the community to revolt against the YMCA.
Joseph Medi, the YMCA manager in Qalqiliya, said his operation has never been involved with missionary activity.
Medi pointed out many employees at his branch of the YMCA are Muslim. He said the YMCA was instrumental in establishing a number of community programs, including contributing to the financing of the Al Ahli Club, a mostly Muslim local soccer organization that has competed in national games.
We've heard this tune before, but just to recap:
- Christians who are sympathetic to Muslims are targeted just as much as Israelis are.
- Muslim threats that follow the blackmail model - do what we want or else we will be forced to become violent. We have no choice, you see - your very existence is way too much of a provocation to us.
- Hamas pretending to enforce law and order when in fact they instigate crime and terror.
- Hamas pretending to embrace all religions when its actions show that it wants to build an Islamist state.
- Mosques used to incite terror.
- Institutions that help Muslims are targeted purely because they do not represent Muslims - bigotry in its most basic form.
- Muslim terrorists preferring to make the life of their PalArab brethren miserable by depriving them of social programs.
- The smaller the minority in a Muslim town, the more oppressed that minority becomes.
- An ancient and thriving Christian community becoming endangered in the face of Islamists.
- No worldwide media coverage of Islamic bigotry. The only stories in Google News, some 36 hours after the attack, are from WorldNetDaily, an abridged version in YNet, and The PalArab IMEMC which can't seem to figure out who mighthave done such a crime.