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 CNS Story:

ISRAEL-SHUT May-11-2009 (340 words) xxxi

Israeli police close Palestinian press office in East Jerusalem

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- A Palestinian press office in East Jerusalem opened to serve journalists during the papal visit was closed by Israeli police in the early hours of May 11.

The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, and retired Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem were scheduled to speak at a May 11 press conference at the Palestinian Media Center about Pope Benedict XVI's visit and his meeting with interreligious dialogue leaders later that day.

The Palestinian Media Center is also operating in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, coordinating media coverage for the pope's visit to Bethlehem.

"We know there is a political agenda behind this. There is a clear and constant attempt (by the Palestinian Authority) to carry out events (in Jerusalem)," said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. He said a warrant to close the office was issued by the minister of internal security.

"It is police policy that those events are not to take place. Based on a government decision, the Palestinian Authority is not allowed to carry out any events within Jerusalem. We don't want the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. They have Bethlehem and Ramallah," he said.

Rosenfeld said police had found documents and files linking the media center to the Palestinian Authority.

Similar attempts to hold other events, including a cultural festival sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, have also been prevented, he said.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, but Israel maintains de facto sovereignty over Jerusalem, including Palestinian-majority East Jerusalem.

Father Peter Madros, a professor of the biblical science and history of the Holy Land at Bethlehem University and an adviser to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Catholic News Service: "East Jerusalem is part of the occupied territory and does not belong to the Hebrew state. ... According to international law, it is occupied territory. Israel should not have sovereignty, at least not such drastic sovereignty in order to forbid the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people to have a press conference or a media center."


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