Israeli police say they have arrested three suspects in the murder of a prominent Christian leader over a church property dispute.

Gabriel Cadis, the head of Jaffa's Orthodox Church Association, was stabbed in the back during a procession to mark Orthodox Christmas earlier this month by men disguised as Santa Claus.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Tuesday that the three Arab Christians from Jaffa have confessed _ one for ordering the hit and two for carrying it out.

Rosenfeld said Cadis was trying to regain control of a $2.7 million building belonging to the Orthodox church that the suspects had entered illegally.

The three men will soon stand trial of murder charges.