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Church in south Lebanon damaged by gunfire
St. Joseph Church damaged in Sidon, south Lebanon on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
St. Joseph Church damaged in Sidon, south Lebanon on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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SIDON, Lebanon: Several shots were fired inside an ancient church in the coastal city of Sidon, damaging the altar and glass windows, residents of the Bqosta neighborhood discovered Sunday.

The shots also targeted the entrance of the St. Joseph Church, located in one of the few predominantly-Christian neighborhoods in Sidon, as well as a number of chalices, a picture of the Virgin Mary and several pews.

It is not yet clear when the incident took place, security sources told The Daily Star but it is confirmed that the assailants used a hunting rifle to fire the shots.

The damage was discovered when residents arrived in the early morning to prepare for Mass at the church, which is shared by both Catholics and Maronites in the area.

The head of the Internal Security Forces in south Lebanon, Brig. Gen. Tareq Abdallah, and a number of policemen arrived at the scene, cordoned off the church's premises and launched an investigation into the incident.

Residents of Bqosta instead held the Sunday Mass at the Church's backyard.

Meanwhile, South Lebanon Governor Nicolas Abu Daher reassured residents, asking them not to be intimidated by such an assault.

"I hope this is an isolated incident," Abu Daher told The Daily Star. "There is nothing to fear and I assure you that the city has always and will always support coexistence."

A member of the Awqaf Committee, Feryal Hana, said St. Joseph is an ancient church that was rebuilt in 1997 after being destroyed in the Civil War (1975-1990).

"We are here a minority and this church belongs to our ancestors. It was once destroyed but rebuilt with our strong fath," Hana said.

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