Explosion damages Gaza church office

Gaza - A youth centre run by the Greek Orthodox church in the Gaza Strip was slightly damaged by a small explosion on Friday, witnesses said.

It was unclear if the blast was connected to comments made by Pope Benedict about Islam that have sparked a backlash from Muslim leaders.

The explosion around sunrise targeted the church's youth centre in Gaza City. The blast broke doors and shattered glass. The church itself was not damaged and there were no injuries.

Gaza is home to an estimated 3,000 Christians among more than 1.4 million Muslims.

"We woke up to the sound of an explosion and when we went down we saw that the door to the office of the youth centre was damaged," a priest at the church said.

The Vatican issued a statement to say the Pope had never meant to offend Islam.

Muslim leaders in Gaza have called for protests later on Friday.

"The Pope should reconsider his statements and must stop offending the Muslim religion," Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said.

The Pope's comments were a hot topic on a pro-Hamas radio show for children.

"What do you say about the man who said some bad words about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad?" the radio host asked a 8-year-old Hanin.

Hanin answered: "He is ugly and his words are ugly."