Not widely reported is the ongoing Persecution of Christians

Church-of-St-Anthony-of-Padua-in-Vienna-Austria

Important Takeaways:

  • Muslim Slaughter of, and Violence against, Christians
    • Nigeria: Some May headlines from the ongoing Muslim genocide of Christians in the African nation:
    • May 1: “Fulani Herdsmen Kill 12 Christians in Plateau State, Nigeria”
    • May 6: “Herdsmen Kill 28 Christians in Benue State, Nigeria”
    • May 7: “Six Christians Killed, Eight Wounded in Kaduna State, Nigeria”
    • May 10: “Suspected Fulani Herdsmen Attack Catholic School in Nigeria”
    • May 14: “Christians, Others Increasingly Targeted in Plateau State, Nigeria: Amnesty International reports 1,336 people killed in three months”
  • A raging Muslim mob attacked and savagely beat a 74-year-old Christian man, on what turned out to be a false accusation of “blasphemy”. Nine days later, on June 3, Nazir Masih Gill died from his many injuries, including a smashed skull. — Morning Star News, June 3, 2024, Pakistan.
  • The Muslim employer of Saima Bibi, a 24-year-old Christian woman, dragged her outside and shoved her toward an electric chaff cutter—which sliced off one of her ears, cut off most of her scalp, and injured an eye. Her husband, Shahzad, who worked on the same farm and was present, said that one of their employers, Muhammad Mustafa, was angry that they were taking a break and ordered them to cut fodder for the cattle. — Morning Star News, May 15, 2024, Pakistan.
  • Shahid Masih, a 35-year-old Christian dairy worker, was falsely accused of theft and subjected to “merciless torture” at the hands of Muhammad Ijaz. It included forcing him to ingest acid, from which he died in the hospital 11 days later…. Last reported, authorities are refusing to prosecute Muhammad Ijaz and his murderous accomplices. — britishasianchristians.org, May 15, 2024, Pakistan.
  • Many other attacks on churches in France persisted throughout the month of May, including arson attacks, general desecrations, desecrations of cemeteries, defecations in churches and urination in their baptismal fonts, and bomb threats. — France.
  • “Imagine the uproar if it was Christians throwing rocks at a mosque? MPs and the media would be all over it screaming ‘Islamophobia!'” — Tommy Robinson, British activist, x.com, May 1, 2024, England.
  • The Church of the Holy Trinity was vandalized with Islamic graffiti, which included “Allah Akbar,” “Remove this church from here,” “Only Muslims are here,” “We don’t want churches, we want mosques,” and “Islam is the only true religion!” — orthodoxtimes.com, May 15, 2024, Kosovo.

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Jesus is revealing himself to the Muslim world through dreams

Muslims-dream-of-Jesus

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Miracle’: Muslim Men in Gaza Seek Christ After Over 200 Dream of Jesus on Same Night
  • More than 200 Muslim men in Gaza have converted to Christianity after reportedly seeing Jesus in their dreams, said Christian professor Michael Licona.
  • Licona teaches New Testament studies at Houston Christian University…
  • In a recent Facebook post, Licona said he received a report from “underground Christian ministries” in the Middle East that detailed the miraculous conversions.
  • “God is working in the midst of war!” his post began.
  • “Over the past two days, we have ministered to hundreds of fathers who have lost most, if not all, of their children in the war. As we moved these men to safety, we fed them, washed their clothes, and began to read the Bible to them — sharing the way of peace through Jesus.
  • “Then, a big miracle happened. Last night, Jesus appeared to more than 200 of them in their dreams! They have come back to us to learn more from God’s Word and are asking how to follow Jesus,” the report said
  • About a month before the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, Assemblies of God News reported that Muslims around the world were dreaming of Jesus and converting to Christianity at an unprecedented rate.
  • “I would even say it’s the normal experience,” said Dick Brogden, a missionary for the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal Christian organization. “It would be accurate to say that Muslims are responding to Jesus in levels we have never seen, not in 1,400 years!”
  • “So many Muslims reject Islam, but know that to follow Jesus will cost them everything. Dreams of Jesus encourage them along the way and give them the comfort that Jesus will be with them — though it cost them everything to follow Him.”

Read the original article by clicking here.

A Warning for Israel of Iranian attacks: The beginning stages as predicted seem to already be happening according to this insider

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Middle East Expert: Iran Planning Multi-Front Attack on Israel
  • On Sunday, Dr. Kedar published an op-ed on the Hebrew-language Makor Rishon describing a shocking security situation developing in the region that represents a dire threat to Israel
  • Kedar began with a disclaimer:
    • “A note to my readers,” he wrote. “I hesitated quite a bit, debating whether to publish the things that appear below because of the panic they might cause in Israel. However, in the Middle East environment, particularly in Iraq, these things are known and serve as a topic of open discussion among quite a few, so it is impossible for the public in Israel not to be aware of them as well. Especially because these things concern Israel; its security and existence, much more than they concern the citizens of Iraq. These things come up occasionally in the Israeli media, so I decided to bring them up here.”
    • “A source I have known for years – an expatriate from the Middle East, a supporter of Israel, who lives in Europe and is in continuous contact with people in Iran and Iraq – conveyed to me his assessment that Iran is planning to launch a combined attack on Israel in the foreseeable future that will include all the forces at its disposal in the Arab countries.”
    • Kedar then detailed what these available Iranian assets were in the region:
    • “In Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas have many thousands of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), some of them with precision guidance systems,” Dr. Kedar wrote. “In Syria – 17 combat units (“militias”) stand armed and ready: Liwa Fatemiyoun, the Zainebiyoun Brigade, the Harakat al-Nujaba, Hezbollah, the Abu Al-Fachal Brigade, Atsa’ab Ahl Al Haq, the Khorsani Brigade, and others. Iran transferred a very large number of missiles and UAVs to Syria and these are ready to be launched.”
    • Kedar’s prediction seems to be already materializing. On Thursday afternoon, 34 rockets were fired at northern Israel from Lebanon. Lantern in the evening several mortar shells impacted near the northern town of Metula. The IDF blamed Hamas forces in Lebanon for the attack but Israeli official sources said it would not have been carried out without Hezbollah’s consent. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is currently in Lebanon.
    • On Saturday night, six projectiles were launched at Israel from Syrian territory
    • Kedar understood these facts in the current context of increasing tensions focused on the Temple Mount.
      • “Under the pretext of the duty of the Muslim world to save Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli occupation and oppression, Iran will conduct a staged, comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated attack on Israel,” Dr. Kedar wrote. “The first phase will be an aerial attack including a massive coordinated barrage of missiles and UAVs from all the aforementioned arenas.”
      • Kedar explained that the Iranian strategy is that the stock of interceptors for the “Iron Dome” will run out within two to three hours of the beginning of the air attack, after which the Israeli skies will be open to further assault. The next phase will focus on the air force which will be damaged and grounded.”
      • “The invasion of ground forces from Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza will focus on Israeli settlements with the aim of demoralizing the Israeli public and forcing the government to surrender…
      • Also, the Iranians expect Arabs in Galilee and the Negev to carry out actions against the IDF and the state such as blocking roads, damaging bridges, spilling oil on roads, blocking intersections, damaging high-voltage lines…

Read the original article by clicking here.

Hundreds protest in Bangladesh over religious violence

DHAKA (Reuters) – Hundreds of people protested in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Monday calling for an end to religious violence that has gripped the country for four days, leading to at least two deaths and several injured.

The violence began on Oct. 15, when hundreds of Muslims protested in the southeastern Noakhali district over an allegedly blasphemous incident. Two Hindu men died following that protest, Mohammed Shahidul Islam, the police chief in Noakhali, told Reuters by phone.

“There is some confusion about whether they died due to the unlawful assembly, or otherwise,” Islam said, adding that police are investigating the deaths. “They (the protestors) were miscreants, actually, that is all we can say.”

Islam declined to share further details.

Several Hindu religious sites have been attacked in recent days, which the country’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said were attacks aimed at destroying the communal harmony in Bangladesh. Hindus make up around 10% of the Muslim-majority country’s population.

“No incident has been reported since Saturday night. Our security forces are working patiently based on intelligence information,” Khan told the news agency ANI.

Unidentified “miscreants” attacked some homes in the Rangpur city on Monday, police told the agency.

The unrest is some of the worst in Bangladesh since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party came to power there in 2009. It poses a challenge to her party, which is seen as the more secular one of the two political groups that have alternated power in Bangladesh for most of its independent history.

Some of those gathered to protest near the Dhaka University in the capital city on Monday held up banners that demanded the police identify the attackers and bring them to justice.

“Safety of minorities in the country must be ensured,” one of the banners read.

(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Rafiqur Rahman; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Israel hopes for rapprochement with fifth Muslim country

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel is working towards formalizing relations with a fifth Muslim country, possibly in Asia, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday.

The White House has brokered rapprochements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco this year. Rabat hosted an Israeli-U.S. delegation on Tuesday to flesh out the upgrade in relations.

Asked if a fifth country could sign up, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Ynet TV: “We are working in that direction.”

“I believe … there will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalization of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord – a peace accord,” he said.

Administration officials have said they are trying to get more countries to recognize Israel or warm existing ties to it.

Akunis said there were two main candidate countries to become the next to move towards normal ties with Israel.

He did not name either but said one is in the Gulf and could be Oman but would not be Saudi Arabia. The other, further to the east, is a “Muslim country that is not small” but is not Pakistan, Akunis said.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, said last week it would not recognize Israel as long as Palestinian statehood demands remain unmet. Malaysia has signaled a similar policy.

“Malaysia’s firm stance on the Palestinian issue will not change,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kamarudin Jaffar told the country’s senate on Wednesday, adding that Kuala Lumpur would not interfere in other nations’ decisions on Israel.

In Dhaka, a foreign ministry official said Bangladesh was not interested in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. “Our position remains the same,” he told Reuters.

Oman has praised the U.S.-brokered diplomatic drive but has not commented on its own prospects of forging Israel ties.

The Palestinians, whose negotiations with Israel stalled in 2014, fear being sidelined by the normalization process.

(Additional reporting by Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur and Rula Paul in Dhaka; Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

‘Something close’ to genocide in China’s Xinjiang, says U.S. security adviser

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. national security adviser said on Friday that China was perpetrating “something close to” a genocide with its treatment of Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“If not a genocide, something close to it going on in Xinjiang,” Robert O’Brien told an online event hosted by the Aspen Institute, while highlighting other Chinese crackdowns including one on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

The United States has denounced China’s treatment of Uighur and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang and imposed sanctions on officials it blames for abuses. It has not, though, so far termed Beijing’s actions genocide, a designation that would have significant legal implications and require stronger action against China.

The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang and activists say crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place there. China has denied any abuses and says its camps in the region provide vocational training and help fight extremism.

O’Brien referred to seizures by U.S. customs of “massive numbers” of hair products made with human hair from Xinjiang.

“The Chinese are literally shaving the heads of Uighur women and making hair products and sending them to the United States,” he said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in June it had detained a shipment originating in Xinjiang of hair products and accessories suspected of being forced-labor products made with human hair.

In June, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled as “shocking” and “disturbing” reports that China was using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against Muslims in Xinjiang.

He said last month Washington was considering the language it would use to describe what is happening in the region but added: “When the United States speaks about crimes against humanity or genocide … we’ve got to be very careful and very precise because it carries an enormous weight.”

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

After UAE and Bahrain deals, is Saudi Arabia softening its stance on Israel?

By Marwa Rashad and Aziz El Yaakoubi

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – When one of Saudi Arabia’s leading clerics called this month for Muslims to avoid “passionate emotions and fiery enthusiasm” towards Jews, it was a marked change in tone for someone who has shed tears preaching about Palestine in the past.

The sermon by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, broadcast on Saudi state television on Sept. 5, came three weeks after the United Arab Emirates agreed a historic deal to normalize relations with Israel and days before the Gulf state of Bahrain, a close Saudi ally, followed suit.

Sudais, who in past sermons prayed for Palestinians to have victory over the “invader and aggressor” Jews, spoke about how the Prophet Mohammad was good to his Jewish neighbor and argued the best way to persuade Jews to convert to Islam was to “treat them well”.

While Saudi Arabia is not expected to follow the example of its Gulf allies any time soon, Sudais’ remarks could be a clue to how the kingdom approaches the sensitive subject of warming to Israel – a once inconceivable prospect. Appointed by the king, he is one of the country’s most influential figures, reflecting the views of its conservative religious establishment as well as the Royal Court.

The dramatic agreements with the UAE and Bahrain were a coup for Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump.  But the big diplomatic prize for an Israel deal would be Saudi Arabia, whose king is the Custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, and rules the world’s largest oil exporter.

Marc Owen Jones, an academic from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, said the UAE and Bahrain’s normalization has allowed Saudi Arabia to test public opinion, but a formal deal with Israel would be a “large task” for the kingdom.

“Giving the Saudis a ‘nudge’ via an influential imam is obviously one step in trying to test the public reaction and to encourage the notion of normalization,” Jones added.

In Washington, a State Department official said the United States was encouraged by warming ties between Israel and Gulf Arab countries, viewed this trend as a positive development and “we are engaging to build on it.”

There was no immediate response to a request by Reuters for comment from the Saudi government’s media office.

Sudais’ plea to shun intense feelings is a far cry from his past when he wept dozens of times while praying for Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third-holiest site.

The Sept. 5 sermon drew a mixed reaction, with some Saudis defending him as simply communicating the teachings of Islam. Others on Twitter, mostly Saudis abroad and apparently critical of the government, called it “the normalization sermon”.

Ali al-Suliman, one of several Saudis interviewed at one of Riyadh’s malls by Reuters TV, said in reaction to the Bahrain deal that normalization with Israel by other Gulf states or in the wider Middle East was hard to get used to, as “Israel is an occupying nation and drove Palestinians out of their homes”.

MUTUAL FEAR OF IRAN

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de-facto ruler often referred to as MbS, has promised to promote interfaith dialogue as part of his domestic reform. The young prince previously stated that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land on condition of a peace agreement that assures stability for all sides.

Saudi Arabia and Israel’s mutual fear of Iran may be a key driver for the development of ties.

There have been other signs that Saudi Arabia, one of the most influential countries in the Middle East, is preparing its people to eventually warm to Israel.

A period drama, “Umm Haroun” that aired during Ramadan in April on Saudi-controlled MBC television, a time when viewership typically spikes, centered around the trials of a Jewish midwife.

The fictional series was about a multi-religious community in an unspecified Gulf Arab state in the 1930’s to 1950’s. The show drew criticism from the Palestinian Hamas group, saying it portrayed Jews in a sympathetic light.

At the time, MBC said that the show was the top-rated Gulf drama in Saudi Arabia in Ramadan. The show’s writers, both Bahraini, told Reuters it had no political message.

But experts and diplomats said it was another indication of shifting public discourse on Israel.

Earlier this year, Mohammed al-Aissa, a former Saudi minister and the general secretary of the Muslim World League, visited Auschwitz. In June, he took part in a conference organised by the American Jewish Committee, where he called for a world without “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism”.

“Certainly, MbS is intent on moderating state-sanctioned messages shared by the clerical establishment and part of that will likely work towards justifying any future deal with Israel, which would have seemed unthinkable before,” said Neil Quilliam, associate fellow with Chatham House.

ISOLATED PALESTINIANS

Normalization between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, which will be signed at the White House on Tuesday, has further isolated the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has not directly addressed Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain, but said it remains committed to peace on the basis of the long-standing Arab Peace Initiative.

How, or whether, the kingdom would seek to exchange normalization for a deal on those terms remains unclear.

That initiative offers normalized ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

However, in another eye-catching gesture of goodwill, the kingdom has allowed Israel-UAE flights to use its airspace. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has a close relationship with MbS, praised the move last week.

A diplomat in the Gulf said that for Saudi Arabia, the issue is more related to what he called its religious position as the leader of the Muslim world, and that a formal deal with Israel would take time and is unlikely to happen while King Salman is still in power.

“Any normalization by Saudi will open doors for Iran, Qatar and Turkey to call for internationalizing the two holy mosques,” he said, referring to periodic calls by critics of Riyadh to have Mecca and Medina placed under international supervision.

(Additional reporting by Davide Barbuscia, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; editing by Maha El Dahan, Michael Georgy and William Maclean)

Sudan confirms ‘contacts’ with Israel, says UAE move is ‘brave’

An Israeli flag is seen near the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017.

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan on Tuesday confirmed having contacts with Israel, saying the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize relations with Israel is “a brave and bold step”, according to its foreign ministry spokesman.

Under the U.S.-brokered deal announced last week, the UAE becomes just the third Arab country to forge full relations with Israel in more than 70 years. The pact could reshape Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.

In February, Israeli officials said Israel and Sudan had agreed to move towards forging normal relations for the first time during a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s military-led, transitional sovereign council, in Uganda.

“The Emirates’ move is a brave and bold step and contributes to putting the Arab world on the right track to build peace in the region and to build sustainable peace,” Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haydar Sadig told Reuters by phone on Tuesday, confirming remarks made earlier to regional media.

“I cannot deny that there are contacts between Sudan and Israel,” he added.

Netanyahu welcomed the remarks, saying on Twitter: “Israel, Sudan and the entire region will benefit from the peace agreement (with the UAE), and together can build a better future for all people in the region. We will do whatever is necessary to turn this vision into a reality.”

Back in February, Burhan confirmed the meeting with Netanyahu but cast doubt on any rapid normalization of ties, saying Sudan’s stance on the Palestinian issue remains unchanged, and that relations between the two countries was the responsibility of the civilian cabinet in Khartoum.

Scores of Sudanese protesters condemned Burhan’s meeting with Netanyahu in February. Under the long rule of Islamist strongman Omar al-Bashir until his fall in a popular uprising in 2019, Khartoum counted among hardline Muslim foes of Israel.

Sadig said any normalization of relations with Israel would not be at the expense of “Sudan’s moral values and independence” and be “according to Sudan’s interests”.

“We will not accept unequal relations with Israel.”

Israel says it expects other Gulf Arab countries and Muslim nations in Africa to follow in normalizing ties after its breakthrough with the UAE.

(Aditional reporting Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Turkey’s Erdogan says Hagia Sophia becomes mosque after court ruling

By Daren Butler and Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship on Friday after a top court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Erdogan made his announcement, just an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque…to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.

Erdogan had earlier proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

The United States, Greece and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the huge 6th Century building, converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally,” the Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court in Ankara, said in its ruling.

“The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said, referring to an edict signed by Ataturk.

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH EXPRESSES REGRET

The association which brought the court case, the latest in a 16-year legal battle, said Hagia Sophia was the property of the Ottoman leader who captured the city in 1453 and turned the already 900-year-old Byzantine church into a mosque.

Erdogan, a pious Muslim, threw his weight behind the campaign to convert the building before local elections last year. He is due to speak shortly before 9 p.m. (1800 GMT), his head of communications said.

The Ottomans built minarets alongside the vast domed structure, while inside they added huge calligraphic panels bearing the Arabic names of the early Muslim caliphs alongside the monument’s ancient Christian iconography.

The Russian Orthodox Church said it regretted that the court did not take its concerns into account when making its ruling and said the decision could lead to even greater divisions, the TASS news agency reported.

Previously, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greece had also urged Turkey to maintain the building as a museum.

But Turkish groups have long campaigned for Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque, saying this would better reflect Turkey’s status as an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

(Reporting by Daren Butler and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans, Jonathan Spicer and Timothy Heritage)

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity ordered closed over coronavirus fears

By Mussa Qawasma

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) – The Church of the Nativity was ordered closed on Thursday and foreign tourists were banned from West Bank hotels after four suspected coronavirus cases were found in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

The measures announced by the Palestinian Authority’s tourism ministry came as a particular blow to the Biblical town, whose businesses are largely dependent on Christian visitors to the church, built on the traditional site of Jesus’s birth.

Just three months ago Bethlehem was hailing its best Christmas for two decades, the mayor and hoteliers said, even better than the 1.5 million visitors it received in 2018.

The Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land said the Church of the Nativity, which was first founded in 339 and rebuilt and extended over the centuries, would be closed for two weeks, along with other churches and mosques in the Bethlehem area.

The ban on foreign guests at West Bank hotels will also last two weeks, the tourism ministry said.

“This affects us dramatically,” said Joey Canavati, manager of the 58-room Alexander Hotel in Bethlehem. “Our workers are essentially laid off for the next 14 days. We will be closed down completely. It destroyed our business from every perspective.”

Canavati said groups of tourists from the United States, Poland and Cameroon had already canceled their bookings.

Palestinian health officials said they were examining whether four workers at another hotel in Bethlehem had contracted coronavirus from tourists who had stayed there recently.

Police surrounded the hotel, as authorities awaited the results of laboratory tests. There have been no confirmed cases of the disease in the West Bank. Fifteen people have been diagnosed with the virus in neighboring Israel.

The Palestinian governor of the West Bank town of Nablus on Thursday ordered its Muslim and Christian holy sites shut as a public health precaution.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank under interim peace accords.

On Wednesday, Israel ordered travelers arriving from Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland to go into home quarantine over coronavirus concerns and canceled a military exercise with troops from the U.S. European Command.

The measure effectively cut off foreign tourism from those countries, whose citizens, the Health Ministry said, would not be allowed into Israel unless they could show they had made quarantine arrangements ahead of time.

Israel has already imposed the edict with regard to flights from Italy, China and Singapore.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta, Stephen Farrell and Rami Ayyub; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Alex Richardson)