The plight this Christmas of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories.

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Part of this article was originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on December 24, 2016

Yet another wake-up call!

by Alan Simons

The Palestinian Information Center, so-called “Voice of Palestine to the World and the Voice of the World to Palestine,” as seen in the illustration above, directs its oppugnant Christmas message to the world. One would surmise, at this time of year, an honourable declaration of peace, compassion and goodwill to mankind that encompasses all that is good in Jesus Christ and Mary would be appropriate. Think again! At the time of writing this article, PICs website extends no hand in friendship and not even to its own Christian community in the West Bank and Gaza.

Within the Palestinian Territories the Christian population, comprising of a mere grain of sand compared to the overwhelming number of predominantly Sunni Muslims, only 1,100 Christians live in the Gaza Strip compared to 5,000 in 2006. And in the West Bank only 42,000 Christians remain. One wonders, with some dismay, what is to become of its Christians? Will history repeat itself as in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt?

This morning, Khaled Abu Toameh, who is based in Jerusalem  and is one of the areas most respected journalists, in an article originally published by the Gatestone Institute, and republished below with permission by jewishinfoNews, had something to say about the plight of the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories. Irrespective of your religious faith, I urge you to read it now!

Palestinians: The Nightmare of Christians

  • For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s minuscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
  • He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack.
  • “The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I were in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here.” — Samir Qumsieh.
  • “I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. is my nightmare.” — Samir Qumsieh.

Without question, Samir Qumsieh is one of the most courageous Christian leaders in the Middle East. Qumsieh is one of the few willing to risk his life to speak out against Muslim persecution of Christians in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East, generally.

For the past four decades, Samir Qumsieh, who hails from a large and well-respected Christian family in the town of Bet Sahour, near Bethlehem, has fought for the rights of the region’s miniscule Palestinian Christian minority. He has even dared to speak out against the subjugation of Christians living under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The plight of the Christians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a subject truly taboo. Yet Qumsieh perseveres – and pays the price. He regularly receives death threats, and he has been the target of a petrol bomb attack. Muslim extremists have also distributed leaflets in the Bethlehem area condemning him for his outspoken views and activities on behalf of persecuted Christians.

Samir Qumsieh.

However, the campaign of intimidation has not deterred Qumsieh from defending them.

In an exclusive interview with Gatestone Institute, the prominent Christian figure, who founded the private Nativity TV Station in Bet Sahour, accuses the Obama Administration of failing to combat ISIS and radical Islam. Qumsieh says he is convinced that President-elect Trump will “terminate” ISIS.

Qumsieh discloses that a “Muslim mafia” has been stealing Christian-owned lands in the Bethlehem area.

As a prominent Palestinian Christian figure in the living in the Middle East, how would you assess the Obama Administration’s role in the war on ISIS?

President Obama is the spiritual father of ISIS. His administration and he were never serious about fighting ISIS. This is what I firmly believe, and many facts confirm my thoughts. When Obama saw that this was about to be exposed, he finally acted, but in a weak manner. He put out a ransom against (ISIS leader) Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi and started telling us that he had bombed ISIS, and so on.

How do you explain Obama’s refusal to use the term radical Islam?

If you ask me, I will tell you the truth: I doubt that Obama is a Christian. Really, I doubt it. During his term, ISIS emerged, and the Christians have suffered heavily. Let me ask you a question. What is ISIS? Why is it that this mobilization of the whole world has not been able to eradicate them? Who can convince me? When America toppled Saddam Hussein, who had a very big and strong army, he collapsed. But when it comes to ISIS, how come they still exist?

Do you believe that President-elect Donald Trump will endorse a different stance toward ISIS?

Absolutely. Trump will obliterate ISIS. Had Hilary Clinton won, believe me ISIS would have continued and flourished. In my view, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the ‘father’ of ISIS, and Clinton is its ‘mother.’

I have a friend who is a painter. He paints portraits of presidents. He is a Muslim, by the way. We sent portraits to King Abdullah, to Mahmoud Abbas and the Pope. He painted a portrait of Obama in front of the Church of Nativity. He worked on it for two months and it cost a lot of money. When the portrait was presented to Obama through the US consul-general in Jerusalem, they did not bother to send a thank you letter to the painter, although I personally talked to the consulate about this. I told them, ‘Gentlemen, this is shameful, at least send a thank-you letter to this man.’ The consul-general at that time came to my office and took the portrait. Doesn’t the painter deserve at least a thank-you letter?

Are you saying that Obama has not done anything to help Christians in the Middle East?

Nothing at all. As I said, I think he was not serious about fighting ISIS, which has harmed the Christians very badly.

In your opinion, what is the best way to fight religious extremism?

I have always said that the solution to extremism is not through the military or security. The solution to extremism starts with the kindergarten, with elementary school. It begins with the churches, with the mosques and the school curricula. Curricula are very important – Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones. They should concentrate on accepting the ‘other.’ If this idea is adopted, the future generation will be liberal and open-minded.

But isn’t the turmoil and violence in the Middle East the result of religious extremism?

The current conflict in the entire region is a religious and sectarian war. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are Sunni. They are against Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. So we are witnessing a religious and sectarian war. This is not only a conflict between Sunnis and Shias.

How do you feel as a Christian when you see what is happening to Christians in the Middle East, especially the recent bombing of a church in Egypt?

What is happening is extremely sad, especially the bombing of a church. I think the Egyptian authorities should act decisively. Every day we hear and see some radical Muslim clerics speaking strongly against Christians. Just recently, one of the sheiks was saying that Christian Copts should be slaughtered like sheep. Where is the Egyptian security? If I was in charge of Egyptian security, I would have this sheikh arrested immediately, and have him rot in a dark underground cell.

Are you aware of Palestinian Muslim clerics who also speak out against Christians?

Yes. This past Friday, one of the sheikhs at a mosque was speaking in a threatening way about Christians. He said that Muslim youths should not imitate Christian youths, and should not wish them well at Christmas. He also said that Muslims should not be doing business with Christians. The sheikh said some highly intimidating things about Christians.

Did the Christians protest against this incitement by the sheikh?

My cousin, who is a retired officer with the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Security Department, published something about the Friday sermon on Facebook. The following day he had to delete the post because it seems he received threats or something like that. When I told my cousin that I will talk with the Palestinian Authority attorney-general about it, he asked me not to talk to anyone. My cousin said, ‘Please don’t talk about this matter because we are 40 Christian families in that area (where the sheikh lives). It is clear to me that my cousin did receive threats, although he would not admit to it.

How would you describe relations between Christians and Muslims in the Bethlehem area?

Objectively speaking, there are millions of Muslims who are good people. I have many close Muslim friends whom I consider as my brothers. The problem is not Muslims. The real problem is radical Islam. In the Quran, there are various kinds of statements, and every Muslim, depending on his belief and attitude, selects what suits him. Some verses call for peace and describe Christians as the ‘People of the Book’ and good people. There are also verses that describe us as infidels and sinful folks. Everyone chooses what appeals to him. According to my humble knowledge, these verses are undated. I think that if they were dated, the fresh ones would supersede the old ones.

My understanding is that you have personally been the target of threats and violent attacks. Can you elaborate?

Yes, I have faced a great deal of harassment, and in 2006 I was even attacked with Molotov cocktails. Also, fliers that spoke against me have been distributed.

What is the main accusation against you? Why are some Muslims angry with you?

When I saw that there was encroachment on Christian-owned land here, I protested against it.

Is it true that Muslims have been illegally laying their hands on Christian property in Bethlehem?

We have a mafia here that is seizing Christian-owned lands. I protested against this Muslim mafia, and I even called a large gathering. I invited 80 people to my home. They included the elite of society – Muslims and Christians. They all joined my protest. That same night, fliers were distributed in Bethlehem threatening to kill me.

What has the Palestinian Authority done to help against you fight this mafia?

There are still many unresolved cases with regards to land encroachment. These cases are in the courts, but our judicial system is very slow. If you go to court, you have to wait 15-20 years. Recently, we have noticed that the encroachments decreased immensely because we have been talking to the Palestinian Authority and pressing them about the problem. Today, there are only a few cases like this taking place. We want all these cases to be solved.

Is there discrimination against Christians living under the Palestinian Authority?

One cannot say that there is official discrimination. President Abbas attends Christmas midnight mass, his prime minister attends the lighting of the Christmas tree. Still, I can simply say that among our people you will find some who harbor radical extremist thoughts. ISIS is a thought. There are Christians working in the Palestinian Authority, but not many. We have Christian mayors, and that is how it should be. Bethlehem, Bet Sahour and Bet Jala have Christian mayors, although some have been demanding that this be changed because Christians are a minority. Fortunately for us, the Palestinian Authority did not respond to these demands.

Do you believe that Christian leaders are doing enough to defend the interests of their people?

Frankly, I do not want the day to come when the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity are turned into museums. Rather, I wish to seize this opportunity hope that it will encourage our leaders to tackle the problem and find a solution. Any Christian businessman who is interested in the general issue of Christians should come and invest here. We want them to build projects, including housing projects. We are also hoping that these projects will provide jobs for young Christians. The biggest problem we are facing is Christian emigration. Some Christians are helping, but this is being done on a very limited scale. But I cannot say that Christian patriarchates are doing their best. Some of them are far from the congregation and do not even care about us. We want wealthy Christians to come here and create project initiatives. It is not enough to say ‘I love the Christians and I care about them.’ This love should be demonstrated through deeds.

Are you worried about the growing number of Christians who are leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Once, 5,000 Christians lived in the Gaza Strip. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, Christians began to be harassed and discriminated against. Today, only 1,100 Christians live there. In the Bethlehem area, there are about 40,000 Christians. Altogether, there are about 42,000 Christians remaining in the West Bank. There are two reasons behind the dwindling figures. The first of these is the ongoing emigration, which is a nightmare for us; the second is the low birth rate among Christian families. To understand the severity of the situation is, let us recall that in the 1950s about 86% of the population of the Bethlehem area was Christian. Today, we are only 12%. In Israel, by contrast, we have 133,000 Christians and the figure is stable. Of course, I am worried about the future of Christians here. Looking at the facts on the ground, you can see that there is no future for the Christians here. We are melting; we are disappearing. I fear the day will come when our churches will become museums. That is my nightmare.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.

* * *

SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

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There is no medicine to cure Jew haters.

-OPINION-

In plain language, it’s time to call antisemites what they are. Jew haters.

By Alan Simons

With all that is happening this week in the Muslim world, and the madness taking place at the United Nations Human Rights Council, it is more than appropriate to remind ourselves that President Obama’s astonishingly inept statement, “Egypt is not an ally nor an enemy,” will be seen by Jew haters as a sign of weakness and indecisiveness.

If there is one issue that brings pathetic sanctimonious anti-American and Jew haters together to demonstrate, it is the belief that the President and the American people are weak. And what better way to supplement the well organised riots in Egypt than through the UNs Jew hating and anti-American Human Rights Council. Ann Bayefsky of Eye on the UN writes:

“While the calamitous consequences of President Obama’s foreign policy are being played out on the Arab street, the Obama-backed UN Human Rights Council is fueling the hatred behind such violence. Today in Geneva during its current session, the Council advertised and facilitated a ‘parallel’ event designed to condemn American troops for human rights atrocities.”

Bayefsky adds:

“Legitimization of the Council has been a cornerstone of the President’s so-called engagement policy, and his administration is currently seeking a second-term as a Council member, with elections scheduled for November 12, 2012. And yet in the Council’s Bulletin of parallel meetings today [September 13], was an event organized by two UN-accredited non-governmental organizations, one of which had close ties to the regime of Mouammar Kadhafi and the other a devotee of Saddam Hussein.

The title of the session was ‘Roundtable on Human Rights Issues that Require the Council’s Attention: Iraq.’ Here’s a sample of what organizers meant by ‘human rights.’ Daniela Valencia: ‘U.S. troops are perpetrators of rape, torture and abuse.’ Karen Parker: ‘The U.S. engaged in terrorism…It terrorized the civilian population.’ The third speaker Christopher Busby said his research suggested the U.S. dropped ‘bombs made of uranium in Fallujah,’ and finished with ‘thank goodness the Koran has such enormous power.'”

Hillel Neuer writing in Canada’s National Post newspaper, also had something to say:

“New UN human rights official is a hero to Holocaust deniers.

“Promoters of the UN’s hypocrisy-ridden Human Rights Council say it’s been reformed. Yet the 47-nation body has stooped to a new low by installing a top official whose life’s work — authoring books on World War II — make Germans the victims and the Allies the war criminals.

“Alfred de Zayas made his first appearance this week as the council’s ‘Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.’ The post was initiated by Cuba, in order to criticize Western countries that ‘wish to dominate the world with their economic and military models.'”

Neuer writes that de Zayas hates the Jewish state. “Israel,” de Zayas says, “emerged out of terrorism against the indigenous population,” remains “privileged on the international scene” and its representatives should be denied UN accreditation.

Non-governmental organizations and bigoted individuals, professing to be proponents of human rights, hardly utter a word against the horrors now taking place in Muslim countries against their Christian population.  Jew bashing  also continues to flourish, unabated.

There is no medicine to cure Jew haters. And until countries run by despots of this world hear from a strong American president who, as historian Michael Beschloss has remarked, must be seen to have “… the courage to confront paramount issues and problems and triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties,”  anti-American riots and demonstrations will continue to flourish with the same vigour and passion as those which direct hate against Jews.

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The Middle East English Language Press: What They Are Saying.

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Egypt seizes rockets believed smuggled from Libya

CAIRO: Egyptian security said on Thursday that it had seized a large weapons cache of surface-to-surface rockets and a mortar, probably smuggled from its western neighbor Libya. Security found the arsenal, which included 50 rockets, a mortar, thousands of bullets and seven assault rifles, in a convoy of three vehicles traveling eastwards from the western city of Marsa Matruh. A security official said the weapons were probably smuggled from Libya, and added that three men in the convoy were arrested. Weapons from Libya, where heavily armed rebels overthrew and later killed veteran dictator Moammar Gadhafi with NATO help last year, are believed to have found their way through Egypt to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Al-Qaeda’s North Africa franchise said late last year that it had also acquired some of Gadhafi’s arsenal, in comments reported by a Mauritanian news agency. – The Daily Star, Lebanon.

Galloway: “Viva Palestina 6″ convoy to Gaza soon”

GAZA: The British MP George Galloway revealed that a new aid convoy entitled “Viva Balastaina 6” will head to the besieged Gaza strip in an attempt to break the Israeli siege imposed on it since over six years. Galloway pointed out that the convoy has already left the city of Bradfordand will enter the Syrian territory in its way to Gaza in the coming days. In a ceremony to honor him in Beirut, Galloway said “The convoy consists of trucks , ambulances and buses loaded with humanitarian aid collected from different countries around the world,” noting that there are British and Malaysian activists in the convoy.” He expressed his surprise over criticisms by some parties to the convoy, noting that the convoy aims to reach Gaza and break the Israeli siege on it. It should be noted that the British MP George Galloway is the most British MP supporting the Palestinian people where he implemented a lot of activities and convoys to support the Palestinian cause. – Alresalah, Egypt.

Iran funding Yemeni separatist conference in Beirut – Yemeni official

LONDON: A Yemeni official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni authorities have banned a number of MPs and officials from travelling to Beirut to attend the Yemeni opposition summit there which is being financed by Iran under the supervision of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC]. The Yemeni official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that “the Yemeni government has banned a number of MPs affiliated to the Wefaq organization from travelling to attend a conference that will also be attended by Ali Salim al-Beidh and representatives of the Huthi movement in the Lebanese capital Beirut” adding “this conference is taking place under the supervision of Hezbollah and the IRGC, and is being financed by Iran.” The source said that the objective of this conference is to disrupt the political process in Lebanon and circumvent the Gulf Initiative. The Yemeni official also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iran has named its new ambassador to Sanaa; however the Yemeni government refused to accept his credentials because he was previously a senior officer in the IRGC.” -Asharq Al-Awsat, UK.

Jews stage pilgrimage to ancient Tunisia synagogue

DJERBA, Tunisia:  A Jewish pilgrimage to the oldest synagogue in Africa on Tunisia’s Djerba Island began Wednesday under tight security after it was cancelled last year following the revolution. About 500 Jews from Europe and 1,000 Jewish Tunisians started gathering on the Mediterranean island before heading to the 2,500-year-old Ghriba synagogue, said Perez Trabelsi, head of the Tunisian Jewish community. “Everything is going properly. I am satisfied,” Trabelsi said of the heavy police and military deployment on the island. There were an estimated 100,000 Jews living in Tunisia when the north African country gained independence in 1956, but the vast majority quickly relocated to France, the former colonial power. But, with roughly 1,500 members, Tunisia still has one of the largest Jewish communities in the Arab world. The pilgrimage previously attracted tens of thousands of visitors, but turnout declined dramatically following an April 2002 attack at Ghriba claimed by Al Qaeda that killed 21 people. The event was cancelled last year with the country on edge following a January uprising that toppled long-serving dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda Party that won October elections has pledged to protect the interests of the Jewish minority. But the country has seen a rise in demonstrations by adherents of an extreme-conservative Salafist strand of Islam who have called for the creation of a more rigid Islamic state in post-Ben Ali Tunisia. Salafist groups shouted “anti-Semitic” slogans during January rallies that coincided with a visit to Tunis by Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza… The Jordan Times.

Syrian regime can’t last ‘very long’: Turkish leader

SLOVENIA: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said here on Monday that Syria’s regime cannot not continue in power for long and urged the international community to stop a humanitarian crisis. “I don’t believe that any regime can stand to work under these principles for very long,” Erdogan told a joint news conference with his Slovenian counterpart Janez Jansa during a one-day visit to the EU member state. Turkey is “opposed to the regime in Syria… nobody should expect us to stand by the people who are oppressing”… Turkey, once a strong ally of Syria, broke with Damascus after Bashar al-Assad’s regime began cracking down on dissent in mid-March last year. More than 11,000 people have perished in the violence, activists estimated. Kurdish Globe, Iraq.

Palestinian airline resumes flights

The Palestinian national carrier, grounded since 2005, has resumed operations with flights between Egypt’s El-Arish and Amman, its director general told AFP on Thursday. “We started yesterday from Amman to El-Arish and from El-Arish to Amman,” Palestinian Airlines director general Zeyad Albad said. “We are going to have flights from El-Arish to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) soon too, and we are trying to set up some new routes to Turkey and the (United Arab) Emirates,” he said. Albad said the resumption of flights was intended to make life easier for Palestinians travelling from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. El-Arish, in northern Sinai, lies around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Rafah crossing. “It’s designed to help people who are coming out of Gaza to other places. Before now they had to go 400,500 kilometres (250,300 miles) to the nearest airport,” Albad said. “It’s very difficult for them, especially for those with families and in the summer, so we are trying to relieve the pressure on them.” Albad said the resumption was also good for Palestinian Airlines, which has seen its four-plane fleet grounded since 2005. “It’s for our benefit too. Now we are flying our two Fokkers, which carry 60 people and are good for the flight to Amman,” he said… For now the airline will operate two flights a week between Amman and El Arish. Albad said flights to Jeddah could start as soon as next week, if Saudi permission came through, and that a flight to Mecca catering to pilgrims was also being studied. Khaleej Times, UAR

Palestinians isolated and short of funds — Fayyad

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable. In an interview with Reuters, Fayyad struck a note of discord with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by calling for elections that have long been delayed because of deep political divisions between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause. “I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers. Arab unrest, the US presidential elections and financial crises in Europe had combined to knock the Palestinian issue off the global agenda more than 18 months after peace talks with Israel broke down in a dispute over Jewish settlement building. “What is the biggest obstacle we face? The state of marginalization. It is unprecedented,” he said. “The Israelis have managed to successfully trivialize our side of the argument,” he added… Fayyad said Palestinians must get their own house in order before they could hope for long-cherished independence, which most world powers continue to support in principle. “I do not believe we will be able to get a state unless we are able to reunify our country,” he said of the political divide that has split the West Bank from the coastal enclave of Gaza, governed since 2007 by the Islamist group Hamas. -Arab News, Saudi Arabia.

17 Turkish officers held in probe of 1997 military coup

TURKEY: Seventeen serving and former Turkish military officers were held and transferred to an Ankara court Wednesday in a long-running probe into a 1997 bloodless coup. The detainees were due to testify in court over their alleged involvement in the overthrow of Turkey’s first Islamist head of government, Necmettin Erbakan, reported the Anatolia news agency. On Tuesday, police carried out raids in nine provinces and detained 17 serving and former military officers — six of them serving generals, media reported. They are accused of “trying to topple the government, or partially or totally impeding its activities,” pro-government Sabah daily reported. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced uneasiness about the ongoing waves of arrests and called for a swift finalisation of the legal case launched by prosecutors. “We are seriously disturbed by these arrests. The steps that need to be taken must be taken and (the case) must be finalised,” he said. The accusation targeting military officers is widely seen as part of efforts by the current Islamist-led government to roll back the military’s influence in politics… Turkey is currently holding dozens of officers, some of them retired, on suspicion of plotting to oust the latest Islamist-led government which took over in 2002. -Times of Oman.

Former PPP chief’s son ‘killed in Albania’

BETHLEHEM: The son of the former chief of the Palestinian People’s Party was killed Wednesday in an explosion in Albania, his relatives said. Unknown assailants planted a bomb near the gate to Anwar Riziq’s home, his relatives told Ma’an. Riziq, from Beit Jala, had traveled to Albania for work. His family believes he was the victim of a conflict between the company he worked for and rival firms. Riziq’s late father Fuad Riziq was secretary-general of the PPP. Maan News Agency, Palestinian Territories.

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