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Palestinians decry church patriarch's role in land deal

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Greek Orthodox patriarch selling land to settlersThe Greek Orthodox Church has been plunged into a renewed crisis in the Holy Land as its leaders are accused of selling off land to extremist Jewish settlers in prime locations in Jerusalem's Old City.

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied in the city this month to call for the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III, claiming that he had colluded with a settler organisation.

The settler group, Ateret Cohanim, has been working for decades to evict Palestinians from their homes and shops in the Old City, including around important holy sites such as the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The land deal, initiated back in 2004, brought down Theophilos's predecessor, Irineos, more than a decade ago after he sold an option for a 198-year lease on three strategically located properties in the Old City to front companies representing Ateret Cohanim.

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