Fatah Seizes Six-Story Gaza Baptist Church

A Gaza church was seized by the Palestinian Fatah group this weekend during one of the deadliest fighting in nearly two months.

Palestinian Authority police broke into the Gaza Baptist Church when church leaders refused to hand over the building key on Feb. 2, reported Open Doors. The police took positions on the sixth floor using the church as a watch point.

Church pastor Hanna Massad described the crisis as “the worst situation we ever went through in Gaza.”

Massad and congregants fear that if PA police fire at Hamas militants from the church top then Hamas militants will retaliate and the church building will be severely damaged.

“Christians and Muslims in Gaza are caught in the crossfire,” said Open Doors USA president/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller in a statement Monday. “And it’s getting worse…It is so vital that the Gaza Baptist Church remains open so ministry can be carried out to those who are even now more marginalized.”

The Gaza Baptist Church building contains Gaza’s only Christian library, a church sanctuary, a guest hostel and a mammogram clinic. Last November, Open Doors founder Brother Andrew spoke at the new building’s dedication service which Moeller also attended.

Last week bitter fighting broke out between the secular Fatah party and the Islamic party Hamas with 28 people killed and more than 230 wounded on Thursday following four days of conflict, according to The Associated Press.

Gaza inhabitants have no way to escape the violence because the Gaza Strip borders are closed.

Increased tension between Fatah and Hamas ensued after Hamas took control of parliament last year from its long-time ruling counterpart.

The international community condemns Hamas, imposing an international boycott on Palestinian Authority, for not recognizing the right of Israel to exist and refusing to renounce violence leading to severe poverty in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Although a new cease-fire was declared on Sunday, few expect it to be successful. Meanwhile, a meeting between moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, took place on Tuesday.

“It’s a very dangerous situation. It’s in God’s hands,” Massad said. “Nothing I can do, nothing anybody else can do can help the situation. He’s the one who protects.”

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