x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Six suspects arrested in 'Santa suit' murder of Christian leader

Israeli police took six Arabs into custody in the Christmas Eve killing of Gabriel Cadis by an assailant who "could have been disguised as Father Christmas".

JERUSALEM // Six Israeli Arabs have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Christmas Eve killing of a prominent Christian leader in Jaffa by a man reportedly wearing a Santa suit, police said Saturday.

Lawyer and accountant Gabriel Cadis was fatally stabbed on Friday after a parade in the historic Mediterranean port district marking the day before Christmas, according to the calendar followed by the Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land.

"Six suspects have been been arrested and will be brought before a magistrate this evening for a remand hearing," Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

She declined to identify the suspects beyond saying that they were Israeli Arabs and did not specify whether they were Christians or Muslims.

Earlier, she said that a special unit had been set up to investigate the murder.

"The killer could have been disguised as Father Christmas but we're not sure," she said.

"Initial inquiries suggest that there was not a nationalist motive to the murder, that is to say that it was not connected to the Arab-Jewish conflict.

"We are following all leads, including rumours of a dispute within the Greek Orthodox community in Jaffa over the victim's recent re-election as leader of the Jaffa Orthodox Church Association."

Last month, the 60-year-old won a third term as lay leader of Greek Orthodox in the town, now a part of greater Tel Aviv, in an election that Israel media said triggered deep tensions with some of his rivals.

Israel has a Christian community of 143,000, according to official figures. They are part of a wider Arab community of 1.61 million that makes up 20.5 percent of Israel's population.

Like Russia and Serbia but not Greece itself, the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem is one of the Orthodox churches that celebrate Christmas on January 7 following the Julian calendar.