JERUSALEM ø Christians and Muslims have clashed in one of the worst
riots in years in the Palestinian Authority.
Hundreds of Christians and Muslims battled each other with metal poles
and stones in Bet Sahour, adjacent to Bethlehem. Palestinian police were
summoned but failed to stop the fighting on July 14 in which scores of
people were injured.
For centuries, Bet Sahour was regarded as a Christian community. Over
the last 20 years, Christian emigration and Muslim population growth have
changed the demography of the town, which has become a Hamas stronghold.
The riots were sparked by a Muslim said to have placed a camera in the
changing room of a Bet Sahour clothing shop. After the Muslim photographed a
partially-clad Christian woman, he fled with his camera.
The shopowner chased the Muslim, who was not a Bet Sahour resident, and
the photographer fled into a nearby taxi. Christians from Bet Sahour arrived
and smashed and torched a taxi and the Muslim fled into a nearby mosque.
At that point, Muslims from the mosque emerged and confronted the
Christians. Both sides called in reinforcements, which intensified the
The Muslim photographer was captured and badly beaten by the Christian
mob. Police then intervened and took the Muslim to jail.
Hundreds of Muslims then went to the nearby jail and demanded the
release of the photographer. The fighting between Christians and Muslims
resumed and Palestinian Authority police fired into the air to stop them.
Later, the Bethlehem district governor imposed a curfew on Bet Sahour.
The PA sent police units from Bethlehem and Ramallah to quell the violence.
Over the next day, most shops in Bet Sahour were closed in protest. The
streets were littered with stones used during the riot.