Monday, March 06, 2006

Israel Church Attackers Say They are 'sorry'

An Israeli couple who triggered riots after discharging fireworks in a revered church in Nazareth have expressed remorse for their actions.

Haim Eliahu Habibi told a court he did not hate Christians or Muslims, saying he targeted the church to draw attention to a child custody issue.

Dozens of people were hurt in clashes following the incident on Friday night.
On Saturday, hundreds of Israeli Arabs protested in Nazareth, accusing Israel of failing to prevent the attack.
Mr Habibi, 44, his wife, Violet, and their 20-year-old daughter, Odelia, appeared in court in the northern Israeli town of Tiberias on Saturday.
Mr Habibi denied his actions had a nationalistic motive.
"I have nothing against Muslims or Christians. It is not logical for me to do such a thing to them, on the contrary. The only thing I want to do is get my children back," he said.
Mrs Habibi, who participated in the attack, apologised for what had happened.
"I am deeply sorry. I am not against anyone. I hope we will be forgiven," she said.
Although Mr Habibi is Jewish, the Israeli media have said Mrs Habibi is Christian, although this contradicted statements from the police.
Media reports say three of the couple's other children were taken into care by social services in the past.
The court ordered the family to be kept in custody for 15 days.
On Friday night, the Habibis entered the Church of the Annunciation in the northern Israeli town and set off firecrackers, causing pandemonium.
The Israeli Arab public is at the edge of its patience Shawki Khatib Israeli Arab leader
Police and security forces poured into the area as rioting broke out outside the church, where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus.
Some 13 police officers and a similar number of civilians were hurt in ensuing scuffles.
Mr Habibi was shielded by police and priests inside the church and was reportedly led to safety dressed in a police uniform to avoid being attacked.