A few weeks ago an Israeli family dressed as pilgrams attended the service for Lent at Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and set off “firecrackers” inside the church. It caused outrage within the city but recieved little media coverage. Israel claimed family member’s were “mentally unstable”.
However, evidence from subsequent court hearings and police investigations has painted a very different picture of what the Habibis intended. They had come well prepared for a large attack and had chosen as their first target not the Basilica but the city’s biggest mosque.
The Habibis were seen walking around the ancient White Mosque in Nazareth’s old market earlier but when they found it empty moved on to the church. According to the Yedioth Aharanoth newspaper, they arrived there with dozens of sound bombs, firework rockets and flares, gas canisters, and bottles of turpentine and petrol.
An investigation by the Arab Human Rights Association(HRA) in Nazareth has also revealed that the pushchair was crammed with marbles, presumably in the hope that in an explosion many more worshippers would be killed and injured by the projectiles.
After entering the church, the couple took up position in one corner while their daughter, Odelia, poured petrol on and around them. They then let off the sound bombs to terrify the congregation inside. When a church official tried to approach them, they doused him too in petrol and tried to set him on fire. According to several witnesses, Haim Habibi tried to detonate the gas canisters before he was overpowered.
In court it emerged that the Habibis, from Jerusalem, had staged the attack after their young son had been taken into care, and then handed over to foster parents in a West Bank settlement.
The three were charged with arson, unruly behaviour and attempted vandalism. Odelia was subsequently released to house arrest.