Attacks on the residents of the Armenian Quarter by Israeli settlers

JERUSALEM (Combined Sources) — Late in the evening of January 28, two Israeli extremists tried to obstruct the traffic on the Armenian Patriarchate street, then hit the car of Armenian young people returning home from work, Chancellor at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Fr. Aghan Gogchian reported.

The Armenians got out of the car and politely spoke and asked why they were being attacked, adding they live in the neighborhood and are returning home from work.

One of the assailants allegedly started shouting, “You don’t have a neighborhood here. This is our country, get out of our country.”

And when the Armenian young man said: “This is also our country, our home is here, we were born here, we have nowhere else to go,” the other sprayed an irritant into the eyes of the Armenian and the two of them ran away.

After returning from the hospital, the Armenians filed a complaint with the police. The police questioned the two extremists and arrested them. One of them was released at dawn, but the one who used tear gas is still under arrest.

An hour after this incident, another group of Israeli extremists, passing along the street of the Patriarchate, tried to climb the roof of the Patriarchate and remove the flags of the Patriarchate and the Republic of Armenia.

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Armenian young people standing in front of the monastery noticed the attempt, approached and prohibited the actions of the extremists, the latter fled and soon returned in a smaller group, this time with masks on.

Attacks on the residents of the Armenian Quarter by Israeli settlers

The masked extremists tried to provoke a fight again, cursed the Armenians and fled in the direction of the police. The Armenian youths chased them, and when the latter noticed that, they started shouting “Terrorist attack, terrorist attack!”

The police, thinking that the shouts of the Israeli aggressors were true, blocked the way of the Armenian men, held the weapons on them, beat some of them, and after arresting Gevorg Kahkejian, they took him to the police station, on the charges of attacked a police officer, which is not true.

George Kahkejian was kept in police custody for one night, the next day, January 29, after noon, with the direct intervention of Patriarch Nourhan Manoogian and the decision of the court, George Kahkejian was released and given 20 days of house arrest. And since Kahkejian has physical injuries, the police, through the mediation of the monastery’s lawyer, allowed him to undergo a medical examination.

On the same day, Israeli settlers attacked an Armenian restaurant near the New Gate in the Christian Quarter of the occupied city of Jerusalem, local sources told Wafa News Agency.

The settlers attacked a group of diners, mostly Armenians, who were enjoying their meals at the Taboon Wine Bar in the Armenian Quarter. According to the restaurant owner, Mihran Grigorian, the three dozen attackers shouted “Death to Christians!” and “Death to Arabs!”

A video of the incident posted on Facebook showed them turning tables and chairs and throwing them at restaurant staff.

“This is not the first time that extremists have behaved like this,” quoted Grigorian as saying. “Non-Jewish residents are attacked systematically.”

The Patriarchate said on January 11 that vandals left anti-Armenian and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls of a local Armenian church.

On Friday afternoon, Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa visited the restaurant owners and adjacent shopkeepers, whose businesses were the target of attacks, in a show of solidarity by the church.

Outside Taboon Wine Bar, with scattered chairs

Last January, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem said Israeli radical fringe groups were seeking to drive the Christian community out of the city.

“Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat,” Theophilos III, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, wrote in an op-ed in The Sunday Times (U.K.) at the time.

“Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly. Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalized. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation,” he continued.

Last June, the Office of the European Union Representative in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip warned that the heritage and traditions of the Christian community and the established religious equilibrium in the Old City of Jerusalem were at risk after Israel’s Supreme Court legitimized the takeover of Greek Orthodox properties by a Jewish settler group.

Yerevan Alarmed

Armenia expressed on Monday serious concern at the latest reports of attacks on the Armenian community in Jerusalem blamed on Jewish extremists.

“We are deeply concerned by recent acts of violence and vandalism targeting Christian religious institutions in Jerusalem, including the Armenian Patriarchate, and Armenian residents of the Old City,” tweeted the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Vahan Hunanyan.

Hunanyan did not say how Israeli authorities should respond to such incidents.

One week before that, more than 30 graves at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion were desecrated. An Anglican archbishop blamed Jewish extremists for the vandalism.

“This is the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their property in and around the Old City,” the British Consulate in Jerusalem said on January 4. “The perpetrators of religiously motivated attacks should be held accountable.”

The Armenian Apostolic Church has for years accused radical Israelis of regularly cursing and spitting at its clergymen in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. Two Israeli soldiers were briefly detained by police in November 2022 for doing so during a religious procession led by an Armenian archbishop.

(Stories from Middle East Monitor, Public Radio of Armenia, Christian Post and Azatutyun were used to compile this report.)

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