The ruins of two large synagogues in Gush Katif, the evacuated Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip, have been transformed into a military base used by Palestinian groups to fire rockets at Israeli cities and train for attacks against the Jewish state, according to a senior terror leader in Gaza.
When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, it left intact 20 synagogues of the Gush Katif Jewish communities following an Israeli Cabinet decision against demolishing the structures.
Immediately after the Israeli evacuation was completed, Palestinians mobs destroyed most of the Gaza synagogues, including two major synagogues which were situated in Neve Dekalim, the largest Gush Katif community.
In front of international camera crews, the Palestinians ripped off aluminum window frames and metal ceiling fixtures from the Neve Dekalim synagogues, which were situation close to each other in the center of town. Militants flew the Palestinian and Hamas flags from the structures before mobs burned down the synagogues.
Speaking to WND from Gaza, Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization, said the area where the synagogues once stood now is used to fire rockets at Israel.
"We are proud to turn these lands, especially these parts that were for long time the symbol of occupation and injustice, like the synagogue, into a military base and source of fire against the Zionists and the Zionist entity," Abu Abir said.
"The liberated lands of the destroyed ugly and Nazi settlements (Gush Katif) is our property, and we have the right to do whatever we feel is suitable for the struggle against the occupation and for the general interest of the Palestinian people," the Committees leader said.
The Committees is a coalition of terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank responsible for launching hundreds of rockets from Gaza aimed at nearby Jewish towns. The group is accused of bombing a US convoy in Gaza in 2003 in which three American government contractors were killed.
Abu Abir blamed the Palestinian desecration of the Gaza synagogues on the Jewish state, claiming the decision to leave the structures intact was part of an Israeli conspiracy.
"The Zionists left these so called synagogues in order to make that one day media outlets like WorldNetDaily would raise the pathetic and rude argument about what we have done to the poor Zionists holy places. (Israel) left the synagogues behind so the world would see the Palestinians destroying them," Abu Abir said.
'It sends pain straight to my heart'
The terrorist leader claimed the mob destruction of the synagogues was not planned but was a spontaneous outburst of "happiness."
"The looting and burning of the synagogues was a great joy. There was no intention to desecrate them but this was part of the great joy the young men had when they destroyed everything that could remind us of the occupation. It was in an unplanned expression of happiness that these synagogues were destroyed."
Prior to the Gaza withdrawal, Israel's Supreme Court ruled the Gaza synagogues should be bulldozed by the Israeli army, citing what it said was previous Palestinian desecrations of other religions' holy sites as justification for the synagogue demolitions. But then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who said he opposed the demolitions, put the decision to Cabinet vote. The Cabinet decided against destroying the structures.
Israel's chief rabbinate had petitioned the Supreme Court to halt the synagogue destructions, arguing the demolitions contravene Jewish law. Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, a member of the chief rabbinate, explained to WND at the time: "According to Jewish law, synagogues cannot be destroyed unless new ones are already built, and even then, the issues are complicated. Here, the former Gaza residents don't have homes yet to live in, new synagogues have not been built, so there isn't even a question."
The senior rabbis also expressed fear Jews in other parts of the world may use bulldozings of the Gaza synagogues as precedent to destroy other abandoned synagogues.
Upon being informed of the current status of the synagogue ruins, Dror Venunu, a former Gush Katif resident who said he prayed daily at the Neve Dekalim synagogues, told WND he was "sick to his stomach."
"It sends pain straight to my heart and makes me sick to my stomach. In any other part of world this would be unacceptable, but where is the media? Where is the international outcry condemning use of a holy site for terrorism?" commented Venunu, who is the international coordinator for the Gush Katif Committee, a major charity organization representing Gaza's former Jewish residents, most of whom are living in temporary housing units.
Reprinted by permission of WorldNetDaily