• PALESTINE \ Sep 20, 2006
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    Militant group threatens Gaza Christians
Militant group threatens Gaza Christians "Every place relevant to Christians will be a target," said a statement from The Army of Guidance sent to news organizations in Gaza. "This will be until the accursed infidel, the Vatican, apologizes to Muslims."

Benedict said Sunday that he was "deeply sorry" that Muslims took offense and that the emperor's words did not reflect his own opinion.

Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said security forces in Gaza had been ordered to protect Christian sites in light of the latest uproar. He said he did not see Tuesday's statement as evidence of a serious threat.

"This is a new name and an unknown group," he said. "I think this is empty talk, it's a fake name."

Christians are believed to number about 50,000 people in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, about 2 percent of the Palestinian population there.

Interfaith relations are generally good - though tensions periodically flare.

In Gaza the tiny Christian community, estimated at several thousand people, lives among 1.4 million Muslims.

Witnesses said that the local Greek Orthodox church, the Catholic church, the Baptist and Evangelical churches, and Christian schools were under 24-hour police guard.