East Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has closed in protest of a new tax policy imposed by Israeli authorities.
“The church will remain closed until further notice,” Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III told a news conference on Sunday.
Palestinian Christian leaders say the move aims to protest plans by the Jerusalem Municipality to levy taxes on church properties and a proposed bill in the Israeli parliament that would make it harder for them to sell property.
The bill would authorize the Israeli finance minister to expropriate lands sold since the beginning of the decade in return for compensation for the companies that bought the land.
The Israeli bill is seen limiting the property rights of the churches and private firms that bought the land.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is home to Christianity’s holiest sites. It is jointly administered by several Christian denominations, including the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches, the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Tewahedo churches.
There are between 10,000 to 12,000 Christians living in East Jerusalem, out of 300,000-strong Palestinian population in the city.
East Jerusalem has drawn world attention since U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 6 officially recognized the holy city as the capital of Israel, triggering world outcry and protests across the Palestinian territories.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- now occupied by Israel -- might eventually serve as capital of an independent Palestinian state.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Middle East war.
In a move never recognized by the international community, Israel annexed the entire city in 1980 claiming it as its "eternal and undivided” capital.
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This article has been adapted from its original source.
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