JERUSALEM: Israeli police said Saturday they have set up a special unit to probe the Christmas Eve killing of a prominent Arab Christian leader in Jaffa by a man reportedly wearing a Santa suit.
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.
"The killer could have been disguised as Father Christmas but we're not sure," said Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri.
"A special unit has been set up to carry out an intensive investigation into the fatal stabbing," 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, Cadis, 60, 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.