Palestinian Muslim groups denounce Israel’s ‘racist nature’ and defend Christian religious freedom

Palestinian resistance groups have spoken out in favor of religious freedom for Christians, condemning the Israeli regime’s new restrictions on the number of Christians wishing to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the holy fire ceremony.

Christians celebrated their holy fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the old city of al-Quds on Saturday, following the imposition of an incendiary limit on attendance this year that the Tel Aviv regime claimed to be for security reasons.

The move prompted a backlash, with Christian leaders rejecting Israeli pretexts to limit attendance and saying the restrictions undermine religious freedom.

In a statement On Friday, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said Israeli courts’ interference in Palestinian religious affairs exposes the regime’s “racist nature” and refutes its “allegations regarding freedom of worship for all”.

“We condemn the Israeli occupation Supreme Court’s decision to limit the number of Christians allowed to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre” for the holy fire ceremony, the statement said.

“We emphasize that the Palestinian people have the right and the will to defend their Muslim and Christian holy sites. No Israeli ploy will dissuade our people from doing so at any cost,” he added.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another major Gaza-based resistance movement, also denounced the Israeli restrictions as a “flagrant violation” of freedom of worship and an attack on Islamic and Christian holy places in occupied al-Quds.

In a statement on Saturday, the group also called for the unity of all Palestinians to confront the Tel Aviv regime’s continued aggression and to “defend the right of our people” to practice their religion and exercise his religious freedom, Palestine Today reported.

These practices will not affect the steadfastness and determination of the Palestinian people and their attachment to their land, he added.

Earlier this month, the Greek patriarchate said it was “fed up with [Israeli] police restrictions on freedom of worship” and that he “has decided, by the power of the Lord, that he will not compromise his right to provide spiritual services in all churches and squares”.

Like the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is governed by a decades-old set of informal arrangements known as the status quo. Israeli violations of these arrangements have angered Christians, as is the case in al-Aqsa with Muslim worshippers.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been at the center of weeks of heightened Israeli violence against Palestinian worshipers since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which began in early April.

Israeli forces have killed at least 19 Palestinians there, including three boys and three women, and injured hundreds more in recent weeks.

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