Imposing 'Islamic rule'
Hamas in June seized complete control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction amid widespread fears it would impose hard-line Islamic rule in the territory and that life for Christians might deteriorate.The Christian population in Gaza and the West Bank has continued to dwindle, down from an estimated 15 percent 50 years ago to about 1.5 percent today. An estimated 3,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.Among the slew of recent alleged anti-Christian attacks in Gaza was the murder in October of a Christian bookstore owner whose beaten, bullet-ridden body was found after his shop had been repeatedly targeted by Islamists.Abu Saqer's Jihadia Salafiya, the army of Islam, is suspected of carrying out anti-Christian attacks in Gaza, including firebombing the bookstore in April and lobbing of grenades at a church in September.Abu Saqer told WND in an interview last year that all Christians in Gaza who engage in missionary activity will be "dealt with harshly."Jihadia Salafiya also is suspected of firebombing Internet cafes and a United Nations school in Gaza that allowed boys and girls to participate together in a sporting event. One person was killed in the attack.Now that Hamas is in power, "the situation has changed 180 degrees in Gaza," said Abu Saqer."Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity," he said.Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of "proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals.""This missionary activity is endangering the entire Christian community in Gaza," he said.Abu Saqer claimed there was "no need" for the thousands of Christians in Gaza to maintain a large number of institutions in the territory.He said Hamas "must work to impose an Islamic rule or it will lose the authority it has and the will of the people."As WND reported in November, Christian leaders in the Gaza Strip were intimidated into attending and expressing support for a speech in which the territory's Hamas leader urged the worldwide spread of Islam.