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Cablegate: Gaza Christian Murdered

VZCZCXRO5970
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #2113 2831720
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101720Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9253
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 002113

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE, NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER KWBG IS PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: GAZA CHRISTIAN MURDERED

1. (SBU) Summary. The body of Rami Ayyad, an employee of
the Baptist-affiliated Holy Bible Association, was found in
Gaza City on October 8, with indications that he was
murdered. According to Gaza Governor Muhammad al-Qidwa,
initial indications point to a hate crime, noting that Ayyad
had received three death threats before his October 7
kidnapping and had owned a bookstore previously targeted by
the "Army of Islam." PA Information Minister Riyad Maliki
said "Hamas fundamentalism is the main factor justifying such
heinous crimes," while former Hamas PM Ismayil Haniyah and
other Hamas officials publicly condemned the killing and said
the case is being aggressively investigated. Al-Qidwa
rejected Hamas' condemnation of the murder as "lip service"
and said he doubts Hamas will seriously investigate. End
summary.

Christian Murdered in Gaza City
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) On October 8, the body of Rami Ayyad was found in
Gaza City. According to media reports and security contacts,
Ayyad was shot in the head twice and stabbed several times.
Ihab al-Ghussian, spokesman for the former Interior Ministry,
told the press that 30-year-old Ayyad was secretary of the
Baptist-affiliated Holy Bible Association, and that the case
is under investigation. According to Ghussian, Ayyad had
been missing for a day and had previously received death
threats from unknown persons. A relative of Ayyad told
Palestinian press October 8 that Ayyad was being pressured to
convert to Islam and that the Holy Bible Association offices
were attacked with an explosive device several months ago.

Hamas Condemns Killing, But PA
Blames Hamas for Sheltering Extremism
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) All Palestinian factions, including Hamas, publicly
condemned the murder and called for swift action to apprehend
the killers; however, PA and Fatah officials blamed Hamas for
sheltering violent Islamist extremism in Gaza. PA Minister
of Information Riyad Maliki told Palestinian press October 9
that "Hamas fundamentalism is the main factor justifying such
heinous crimes." Former Hamas PM Haniyah told local press
October 8 that he condemns the killing and will not tolerate
antagonism of Christian)Muslim relations.

4. (SBU) Gaza Governor Muhammad al-Qidwa told PolSpec by
telephone October 9 that all initial indications point to a
hate crime. Al-Qidwa said Ayyad had no family or personal
feuds and was not robbed. He said Ayyad was likely murdered
because of his religion. He said Ayyad had received three
death threats before he was kidnapped October 7 and Ayyad,s
family received an October 8 phone call saying he had been
executed. Al-Qidwa added that the "Army of Islam," which
took responsibility for BBC reporter Alan Johnston's 2006
kidnapping in Gaza, is also blamed for attacking Ayyad's
Christian bookstore several months ago. After the attack,
the "Army of Islam" claimed Ayyad was a missionary urging
Muslims to convert to Christianity.

5. (SBU) Al-Qidwa rejected Hamas' condemnation of the murder
as "lip service" and said he is unaware of any serious
investigation or arrests made in aftermath of this crime. He
said PA President Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is personally
disturbed by the crime and has tasked an immediate report on
the incident.
WALLES

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