A skirmish between Coptic clergymen and Israeli police took place in Jerusalem on Wednesday (24 October) after the monks protested against Israeli authorities forcibly taking charge of repairs to a chapel the Copts say they own, Associated Press reports.
The Antiquities Authority of Israel moved to repair the St. Michael the Archangel Chapel – part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered the “holiest site of Christianity” – after a stone fell out of place in September.
But Coptic Bishop Antonius of Jerusalem and the Holy Land said the authorities did not have the church’s permission and that police had earlier prevented workers hired by the church from carrying out the repairs, insisting Israeli authorities should do it, Egypt Today reported.
Israeli police said they forcibly removed the priests after they had blocked the entrance to the chapel. The Copts’ lawyer said some of them suffered “minor injuries”.
“The police besieged the monks while protesting. They hit and pushed them and arrested one of them. They forcibly dragged them away and let municipality workers enter the church to do the renovation,” an eyewitness said, as reported by Egypt Today.
The Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate has filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry of Israel.
“While we condemn the actions of the police officers towards Coptic monks, we demand that Israeli authorities … hold accountable the mentioned police officers and respect the basic rights of the people for freedom of expression and demonstration,” said Wadie Abunassar, adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land, reported Associated Press.
According to AP, the Antiquities Authority refused to comment, while Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned the actions of the Israeli police and said it is “closely monitoring the situation”.