Gaza Bible Society Worker Murdered

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GAZA STRIP - The body of 26-year-old Rami Ayyad was recovered early Sunday morning near the Teachers' Bookshop in Gaza where he worked.

On Saturday, a yet unidentified group kidnapped Ayyad just after he closed the bookshop around 4:30 p.m.

"We do not know the exact identity of the group," said Palestinian Bible Society Information and Public Relations Director Simon Azazian, "but we know he was martyred for his faith in Christ," he said.

Earlier, Ayyad told co-workers he'd noticed a car with no license plates following him.

At 6 p.m., his wife received a phone call from him saying he'd been taken captive by a group of people and would be home late. A second phone call relayed the same message.

The director of the Palestinian Bible Society reported the kidnapping to Gaza police.

At 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Ayyad's body was found, with stab wounds and bullet holes, near the bookstore where he'd devoted so much time.

"Rami was the most gentle member of our team, the ever-smiling one," Azazian said in an e-mail to co-workers.

"He was the face of our Bible shop, always receiving visitors and serving them as Jesus would," he said.

"Please pray for Rami's family, for the team and all followers of Christ in Gaza," he said.

Ayyad leaves behind his pregnant wife, Pauline, and two young children. The funeral will take place at 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

"He also left behind a committed team of servants of the Lord," Azazian said, asking that the team pray for the misguided people who murdered this devoted young man.

"Please pray for those who think that by killing us, they offer a service to God. May they come to know His love," Azazian said.

"The hour of the ultimate cost of following Christ has come. Blessed be the name of the Lord," he said.

The Palestinian Bible Society opened the Teachers' Bookshop in 1999. It is the only Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman said it has launched an investigation into the murder.

"This grave crime will not pass without punishment," a ministry spokesman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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