Jerusalem church fire being probed


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Christian Zionist group warned against blaming Jewish settlers for a possible arson attack against a church in downtown Jerusalem.

On Sunday, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the attack early last Friday on the Jerusalem Alliance Church, part of the Christian Alliance headquarters near the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

An accidental cause has not been ruled out by firefighters, The Jerusalem Post reported. Church neighbors said there were often lit candles in the building.

Church and Palestinian leaders have blamed the attack on extremist Jewish settlers, though there is no solid evidence to back their assertion.

The International Christian Embassy  warned against pinning the blame on settlers, who have been accused of perpetrating recent arson attacks on two mosques in the West Bank.

“We urge Israeli authorities to investigate this matter thoroughly and prosecute those found responsible," the embassy said. "We note that this process has already begun and while no conclusions can be drawn yet, it appears this was not a ‘price tag’ attack by extremist Jewish settlers, as some media are already claiming."

The church was built in 1914 and is used by several congregations, including an Arab congregation and Messianic Jewish congregations.

Several staff members live in the building. Three were taken to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, according to reports.

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