By The Associated Press
GENEVA – The World Council of Churches denounced on Wednesday two attacks on Christian volunteers in Hebron, and called on Israeli authorities to punish the Jewish settlers responsible.
In both cases, the attacks occurred as the volunteers were helping Palestinian children on their way to school, said the Geneva-based WCC, the world’s biggest grouping of Christian churches.
Israeli authorities should stop the “abusive, unlawful and violent behavior by settlers toward Palestinians and internationals,” Peter Weiderud, the WCC’s director for international affairs, wrote in a formal protest to the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland.
The council groups nearly 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches representing more than 500 million followers. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member.
Israel’s embassy in the Swiss capital, Bern, acknowledged receipt of the protest, but was not immediately able to comment.
Wiederud’s letter expressed “alarm and concern” with the attacks, and said they were part of the larger problem of “settler and other occupation-related attacks against Palestinians in Hebron, in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”
The WCC said a Swiss lawyer was “stoned” by a young settler in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida area April 1, suffering a head wound requiring seven stitches. A German social worker and a Norwegian sociologist were attacked in the same neighborhood April 20 by 15 young settlers, but neither suffered serious injuries, the WCC said.
The three volunteers were escorting Palestinians attending the Cordoba Girls School, which is situated opposite the Beit Hadassah settlement. “Its pupils and teachers are frequent targets of stone-throwing, kicking and spitting by the settlers,” the WCC said.