POLICE BREAK UP UNHOLY BRAWL IN REVERED JERUSALEM CHURCH

Agence France Presse
April 20 2008

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli police rushed into Jerusalem's Church of
the Holy Sepulchre to break up fist fights between dozens of Greek
and Armenian worshippers on Orthodox Palm Sunday, witnesses said.

Some 20 officers intervened after Armenian worshippers threw a Greek
Orthodox priest out of the church, sparking a free-for-all, they said.

Several worshippers then started beating the police officers with palm
fronds they were holding for the Palm Sunday celebrations that mark
the return of Jesus to the Holy City a week before he was crucified.

After the incident, dozens of members of Jerusalem's Armenian community
marched from the church to the Old City's police headquarters in
protest at the detention of two Armenians.

Brawls are not uncommon at the church, which is shared by various
branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards
part of site -- considered one of the holiest in Christianity.

Precisely in order to prevent such disturbances, two Muslim families
have been entrusted for the past 800 years with opening and closing
the gates of the church, a cavernous labyrinth of chapels and crypts
built on the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified
and buried.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Palm Sunday according to a different
calendar from Catholics and other Christians in the west, who marked
the day on March 16.

Tens of thousands of Orthodox worshippers from across the world packed
the streets of the Old City for the celebration.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli police.