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Palestine.If liberation theology any time had any meaning ...
by Tausch, Arno
10 April 2002 09:19 UTC
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then please, dear friends, visit:


Sabeel Statement
March 13, 2002

In the context of the rapid escalation of conflict in the Palestinian
territories occupied by Israel, and in Israel, we at Sabeel Ecumenical
Liberation Theology Center remember the call of the prophet Micah to do
justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In the spirit of this call we
ask the global community of every family, language, people, and nation:

1. to call for an end to Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian
territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem
implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 194, 242, and 338;

2. to demand Israel's compliance with international law and the IV Geneva
Convention on the protection of civilians in occupied territories, including

 fulfilling nations' obligations under the IV Geneva Convention to
intervene and bring to an end the present deadly cycle of violence caused by
the current Israeli incursions into Palestinian refugee camps and cities,
the continuing bombardment of civilian areas, and the terror it has created
on both sides;

 to end the Israeli policy of collective punishment and humiliation of the
whole Palestinian population;

 to require Israel to end the killing of Palestinian doctors and other
medical workers and targeting of ambulances and all other Grave Breaches of
the Convention, which constitute war crimes;
3. to support the protests against the Occupation voiced by Palestinians and
those Israelis who stand for a just peace;

4. to honor, encourage and stand in solidarity with the many people who are
engaged in non-violent resistance

5. to pray for the victims of violence, the wounded, and all of their
families on both sides of the conflict;

6. to support church-related and other international programmes of monitors
to the Occupied Territories for the protection of Palestinian civilians, and
again call upon the world community to provide the same.

The Palestinian people have the right to struggle for freedom and
independence. Occupation is the source of this conflict. Until it ends more
suffering will take place. We appeal to the global community to bring about
a just resolution to this long-standing conflict by upholding international
law and enforcing the implementation of all relevant UN resolutions and the
Geneva Conventions.







Murdering Arafat
What folly has beset this people? Uri Avnery remembers the Romans
Al Ahram, 580, 4-10 April 2002
If Ariel Sharon succeeds in murdering Yasser Arafat, as he wants to, the
Palestinian leader will remain in the collective memory of his people, and
the whole Arab world, like the Moses of Jewish memory. 

Moses rebelled against Egyptian oppression, led his people forth from "the
house of bondage," led them for 40 years in the desert, made a new people
out of them and brought them to the threshold of the Promised Land. He did
not enter the land itself -- God only showed it to him from afar. That will
be told about Arafat, too, if he becomes a martyr now. 

Moses is, of course, a mythological figure. No serious scholar in the world
believed that the exodus from Egypt really happened. Experts explain that it
could not have taken place at all. But that is not really important: the
mythological Moses shaped the consciousness of the Jewish people more than
any flesh-and-blood leader of a nomad tribe in the desert could have done. 

The Haggada, the book read on Passover's eve by almost every Jewish family
throughout the world, commands us to feel as if we ourselves had set forth
from Egypt. The basic Jewish ethos is built on this premise. The text of the
Ten Commandments in Deuteronomium V explains why on the holy Sabbath the
servants and slaves must be allowed to rest, too: "Remember that thou wast a
slave in the land of Egypt." 

In the new myth that is being born before our eyes, Sharon is the Pharaoh
and we are the ancient Egyptians. In the story about the Exodus, the Bible
lets God say: "I have hardened (Pharaoh's) heart and the heart of his
servants." After every calamity that befell him, Pharaoh broke his promise
to free the Israelites. Why? What was God's purpose? He wanted the
Israelites to become hardened by the hardship, before they started on their
long march. This is what is happening to the Palestinians now. 

So what will happen if an Israeli bullet kills Arafat now? After Moses, no
second Moses appeared, but Jehosuah, the merciless warrior who committed
genocide. (This, by the way, is also a myth. All serious scholars believe
that this holy genocide never actually happened.) After Arafat, the heir
will not be Abu this or Abu that. It will be Brother Kalashnikov -- like the
song we used to sing in our youth, during the fight against the British
occupation: "Give the floor to Comrade Parabellum, Give the floor to Comrade
Tommy-gun." The parabellum was a pistol, the tommy-gun a sub-machine- gun. 

There will be no Palestinian Quisling -- and if a candidate were found, he
would be killed the next day, like Sharon's Lebanese Quisling, Beshir
Jemayyel. Dozens of local guerrilla leaders will take over, and they will
start a campaign of revenge that may go on for many years, not only in the
country, but throughout the world. The life of every Israeli will become
hell, all the world will become a Jerusalem- style Ben-Yehuda Street. No
Israeli embassy, no airplane, no tourist will be safe. 

Arafat dead will be far more dangerous than Arafat living. The living Arafat
is able and willing to make peace. The dead Arafat cannot. He will
eternalise the conflict. 

In our days, historians wonder what folly took possession of the Jewish
people 1,930 years ago, causing them to start a hopeless rebellion against
the Roman empire and bringing utter destruction upon the Jewish commonwealth
in Palestine. A hundred years from now, historians will ask themselves what
folly took possession of this people, causing them to elect Sharon, who has
done nothing in life apart from shedding blood and setting up settlements.
What folly took possession of this people, causing them to prefer
settlements and some territories to peace and conciliation? And how do such
a people remain indifferent, when the whole Arab world offers them --
perhaps for the last time! -- real peace and normal relations, and the
public listens to the silly ranting of politicians and commentators, who
ridicule the offer and cheer Sharon on, at the start of a bloody campaign
worse than any one before? 

History remembers the few, who warned the people of the disaster that was
bound to follow if they listened to the Zealots. History will remember us,
the few who are warning the people now of the disaster that will befall us
all, if we follow Sharon and his gang. Let us hope that our voices will be
heard in time, so that we can start on a new road. 

If Arafat is murdered, it will be the moment of no return. 

The writer is head of the Israeli peace group, Gush Shalom. 

Sharon's war plans
Israel's offensive in the West Bank is the most extensive in 34 years of
occupation. But what are its aims? Graham Usher in Jerusalem finds a
campaign drenched in ambiguity
Al Ahram, 580, 4-10 April 2002
Last Friday the Israeli army called up 20,000 reserve combat officers, the
largest mobilisation in Israel since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Ten
thousand more reservists may be called in the coming days. 

Together with the army's invasions of Ramallah, Qalqilya and other West Bank
cities, the call-up confirmed "Operation Defensive Wall" as Israel's most
extensive offensive in the occupied territories in 34 years of occupation. 

The plan has been honed ever since Ariel Sharon was elected Israel's Prime
Minister. But it was brought to the table after a Palestinian suicide bomber
killed 22 Israeli civilians and wounded more than 100 in the Israeli town of
Netanya on 27 March. It was approved following an eight-hour session of the
Israeli cabinet the next night. 

The debate was long because it reflected the divide that has rent Israel's
political and military establishment over how best to crush the 18-month-old
Palestinian uprising. 

Right-wing ministers demanded the destruction of the Palestinian Authority
and the banishment or worse of Yasser Arafat. In other words -- though few
dared to say so -- Israel's reconquest of the West Bank and Gaza. 

Labour party ministers balked at all three, aware that reoccupation and the
Palestinian leader's death or exile would risk turning the Intifada from an
anti- colonial revolt into a regional fire. 

 A tank crushes a car in Bethlehem on 2 April 
Instead, they argued that maximum "pressure" must be exerted on Arafat. For
Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, this meant neutralising Arafat in his
compound to "break the chain of terror" allegedly linking him to the
Palestinian militias beyond it. 

For Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, it meant turning the screw so tight that
Arafat would be forced to "accept and implement immediately" the "bridging
proposals" for a cease-fire submitted to him last week by US special envoy
Anthony Zinni. 

Sharon staked a middle ground between the two. During the cabinet meeting he
was fully behind the right's call for Arafat's expulsion. But he was non-
committal over destroying the PA other than limiting its military arms. His
summing up of his government's present policy reflected the ambiguity. 

"Arafat, who established a coalition of terror against Israel, is an enemy
and at this stage will be isolated," he said on Friday. 

But what does isolation mean? Writing in Israel's premier Yediot Aharonot
newspaper on 29 March, military correspondent Alex Fishman said Operation
Defensive Wall was a military campaign with a political goal. 

There would be consecutive invasions of each PA area to "eliminate the
terrorist infrastructure," with the army "taking over buildings,
house-to-house searches, confiscating arms and [mass] arrests." 

But the goal remained a political solution on Israel's terms: "The
aspiration is to raise the confrontation to such a level of harshness that
the PA will have no choice but to search for an agreement at the
negotiations' table," wrote Fishman. 

This appears to be the army's view. "The objective [of the campaign] is to
change the security reality vis-- vis the Palestinians so as to allow
diplomatic negotiations," the chief of staff told the cabinet meeting on

Sharon turned on him, saying: "What are you talking about? There aren't
going to be any diplomatic negotiations." 

He also made it clear there would be no agreement with a PA led by Arafat.
"He is the enemy of Israel and the entire free world, an obstacle to peace
in the Middle East and a threat to stability of the entire region," Sharon
said in a televised address on Sunday. 

But the Israeli leader has yet to publicly embrace the call to bring down
Arafat's "deadly, destructive and dark dictatorship," advocated by his rival
and possible nemesis Binyamin Netanyahu. 

Does this mean Sharon -- following the crushing military blow he wants
delivered by "Defensive Wall" -- still seeks a Palestinian leadership docile
and quisling enough to accept his plans for a "long-term interim agreement"?

"Yes," says Labour Party parliamentarian Haim Ramon. "Sharon wants Arafat to
disappear and for a moderate Palestinian to replace him. He will negotiate
and try to convince it [the new Palestinian leadership] to accept a
Palestinian state in 50 per cent of the West Bank. Then he will resign and
wait for the future. He won't give up more than that. 

It's an illusion. It will never happen. What will happen is what we are
seeing now: the de facto destruction of the PA and Israel's full or almost
full reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza." 

08Apr2002 ISRAEL: Nativity Church in Bethlehem still under fire. 
By Yelena Dorofeyeva.
- The Church of Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem is still under fire, a
member of the Russian religious mission in Jerusalam said.
Celibate priest Feofan told Itar-Tass by telephone on Monday that Israeli
troops were using firearms against the Palestinians inside the church who
did not fire back, for they "understand that there will be a squall of fire
in return".
As a result of Israeli fire, one of the rooms used by a Catholic priest in
the complex of buildings attached to the church went ablaze. Father Feofan
said the fire had been put out but a Palestinian fireman had been killed.
Metropolitan Amvrosy, who represents the Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate in
Bethlehem, has left the church. However reports claiming that Greek monks
have left the church and the Orthodox monastery adjacent to it have proved
Father Feofan said he had talked with one of the monks by telephone earlier
in the day who had told him that there were four more monks and on priest
with him in the church. No religious service was held in the church on
Sunday when Orthodox believers celebrated Annunciation.
Members of the Russian religious mission have so far had no chance to
inspect its House of Pilgrims in Bethlehem left three days ago by Israeli
troops who had used as a firing position. "It is not possible yet to assess
the damage caused to the building by the soldiers", Feofan said.
According to the guard, doors and windowpanes in the building are smashed,
furniture is broken, even suspended ceilings were removed, and the tiles on
the ground around the building were crushed by tanks.
Bethlehem remains a closed city. A large inter-confessional delegation led
by Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem that headed for the
Nativity Church was stopped at a roadblock at the entrance to the city.
In the meantime, the Russian Orthodox Church is conducting negotiations with
Israeli authorities for the restoration of the House of Pilgrims in
"Our appeal has been met with understanding by Israeli authorities",
Vsevolod Chaplin of the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations department
told Itar-Tass.
Plenipotentiary minister of the Israeli embassy in Moscow, Arkady Milman,
said earlier in the day that his country was ready to compensate for the
damage caused to the House of Pilgrims.
Israeli troops stayed in the House from April 2 to April 5. As a result of
protests lodged by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Foreign Ministry, the
soldiers left the building and withdrew their tanks from the area around it.
The new seven-storey building of the House of Pilgrims for 150 people was
commissioned only a month ago. But no one has stayed in it yet because of
the deterioration of the situation in then region.

(c) ITAR-TASS 2002. 

Sources:ITAR-TASS WORLD SERVICE 08/04/2002 

06Apr2002 PALESTINE: UPDATE 1-Greek Orthodox monks flee Bethlehem church
By Christine Hauser
BETHLEHEM, West Bank, April 6 (Reuters) - Three Greek Orthodox clerics and
two Palestinian women left Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on Saturday,
but the circumstances of their escape from the besieged holy shrine were
The Israeli army said it had helped them flee the church built over the
traditional site of Christ's birth, where dozens of Palestinian gunmen have
been holed up for the past five days.
But Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, head of the Catholic church in the Holy
Land, condemning Israel's siege on one of Christianity's holiest sites,
denied reports that some 200 people including priests and nuns were being
held hostage there.
"False news and rumours were propagated to the effect that Franciscan
brothers are being held hostage inside their convent by the Palestinians,"
Sabbah, the first Palestinian to hold the influential church post, said in a
statement sent to Reuters.
"We also strongly condemn the siege of the basilica and the psychological
war waged by the Israeli soldiers around it," he stated, saying allegations
of hostage-taking "add insult to injury".
Palestinians and church officials have said more than 200 Palestinians,
including some gunmen and some members of Bethlehem's tourist police, sought
shelter in the church after Israeli tanks stormed the city on Monday as part
of what Israel says is a campaign to root out suicide bombers.
Israeli army spokesman Olivier Rafowicz said the army was negotiating with
the gunmen to surrender and free the "hostages" he said they had taken among
clergymen and civilians - most of them apparently church workers.
"We know there are between 150 and 200 armed men inside the church. We are
trying hard to find a peaceful solution," he said.
Palestinians say it is the troops surrounding the church who have
effectively taken its occupants hostage.
Father David Jaeger, spokesman for the Franciscan custodians of Roman
Catholic sites in the Holy Land, told Israeli television that Palestinian
gunmen had forced their way into the church on Tuesday by shooting off the
But he said in Rome that the Franciscan friars were not hostages, and
expressed concern that Israel was using the accusation to legitimise a
"perhaps imminent military assault".
Vatican sources said church diplomats had put forward a proposal to end the
The Franciscan order said an Israeli sniper had fired at its monastery near
the church, narrowly missing a friar. The army denied the report, saying
soldiers were under strict orders not to fire at the church. It has pledged
not to damage the shrine.
Witnesses said Israeli and Palestinian snipers were on rooftops throughout
the city. Occasional bursts of gunfire echoed through the streets but it was
impossible to determine who had fired them.
The Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches share custody of
the church.
The army launched its operation in Bethlehem and six other West Bank cities
after a deadly wave of Palestinian suicide bombings killed more than 40
people over the Passover holiday.
(C) Reuters Limited 2002. 


05Apr2002 RUSSIA: Palestine embassy denies reports on hostage taking. 
Text of report in English by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS

Moscow, 5 April 5: Palestinian embassy in Moscow denied today media reports
alleging that groups of Palestinians affiliated with the Tanzim organization
had broken into the churches of Virgin Mary and Nativity in Bethlehem and
forbidden their clergy and foreign reporters to leave the compounds of the

A statement released by the embassy said the media had incorrectly
interpreted the words of Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the head of the Roman
Catholic Church in Jerusalem. "Reports of that kind are nothing but
concoctions," the embassy said.

Michel Sabbah said the people who had entered the two churches were officers
of the Palestinian police, security service officers and rank-and-file
civilians. They were unarmed and did not arrest anyone or take hostages.

It is the Israeli troops who are firing at the churches and trying to
penetrate them, Sabbah said, stressing that the Christian Church believes
its duty is to extend protection to the people. God defends those who are
inside a church building, he said.

Media allegations about hostage-taking inside Christian shrines "distort the
true picture and aim to justify the aggressive designs of the terrorist
Israeli government", the Palestinian embassy said.

Source: ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in English 1614 gmt 5 Apr 02.
BBC Worldwide Monitoring/ (c) BBC 2002. 


05Apr2002 PALESTINE: UPDATE 1-Four priests slip out of Bethlehem
By Christine Hauser
BETHLEHEM, West Bank, April 5 (Reuters) - The Israeli army said it helped
four priests slip out of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on Friday, but
about 200 Palestinian gunmen and civilians remained inside in a standoff
with Israeli troops.
A number of priests have been in the church compound since the gunmen burst
in on Tuesday after Israeli troops invaded the West Bank town as part of an
offensive in which it is rounding up militants blamed for attacks on
The Israeli army has surrounded the church, built over the spot where
Christians believe Jesus was born, but says its troops are under orders not
to fire at it or other holy places.
Israel accuses gunmen of using the church as a sanctuary and sheltering
among scores of nuns and clergymen, in effect taking them hostage.
Palestinians say it is the troops surrounding the church who have
effectively taken its occupants hostage.
"Four priests were taken out by the army, without the knowledge of the
terrorists, from the Church of the Nativity and were taken to Jerusalem,"
army spokesman Olivier Rafowicz said.
He said troops did not enter the church, but would give no other details
about their departure or their nationality.
Father Youssef, a priest inside a monastery next to the Church of the
Nativity, said he did not believe any gunfire had been aimed at the church.
"Everything is quiet now," he said.
Colonel Marcel Aviv, leading what Israel says are negotiations aimed at
ending the confrontation at one of Christianity's holiest sites, said on
Thursday the army wanted to arrest the gunmen and let the others go.
"We offered them one thing: to leave in a dignified manner whereby we will
inspect the people," he said. "Those who are not wanted, are not terrorists,
will of course be freed."

Wadi Abu Nasser, a former aide to Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, said he
understood that Palestinian gunmen had respected a request from clergymen in
the Church of the Nativity not to use their weapons.
"I believe there have been no reports of gunfire from the church," he told
Israel radio.
Asked his opinion on the original entry of the gunmen, who had been fighting
running battles with IsraelI forces advancing into Bethlehem at the time, he
said religious sites had been used as sanctuaries in many wars throughout
"It's not unique to our country," he said. "When there is a battle, sacred
sites are usually seen as a relatively safe haven, in the eyes of most
So far, the worst has been avoided, but there have been violent incidents
close to the church.
Church leaders have urged Israel not to storm the church, saying it could
result in a "terrible massacre". The army has denied trying to storm the
On Thursday, a sniper killed the church's bell-ringer, Samir Ibrahim Salman,
in Manger Square, each side accused the other of shooting him.
(C) Reuters Limited 2002. 


05Apr2002 AUSTRALIA: Battle of Bethlehem - Fighting encircles birth place of
ARMED and defiant Palestinian fighters remained holed up in one of
Christianity's holiest shrines last night while Israeli forces widened their
ferocious six-day West Bank offensive by over-running the city of Nablus.
The sound of gunfire could be heard in and around the Church of the
Nativity, which marks the birthplace of Jesus.
The church was ringed by tanks and wary Israeli soldiers patrolled the
streets on the lookout for snipers.
The stand-off began on Wednesday when about 300 Palestinians, nearly all
armed, entered the shrine to escape Israeli forces after hours of heavy gun
Father Ibrahim Faltas, the superior of the Franciscan community in the
Nativity church, told the Vatican news agency by telephone from inside the
church that food supplies had run out and "the situation is critical. Please
help us".
Earlier, in a filmed appeal to journalists, he said: "We ... are taking
refuge in the Church of the Nativity while the Israeli tanks are surrounding
the basilica.
"We appeal to the international community, nations of the world, to come to
our rescue ... unless you do something to solve this issue, we are in a real
and great danger of being massacred. Please help us."
About 30 Franciscan monks and four Franciscan nuns, along with members of
the Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities, remained in church buildings
and adjoining monasteries, one journalist said.
Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Israel had "no intention
to break into any church" but army officials said those inside would not be
allowed to go free.
Earlier, the US organised an armoured convoy to evacuate about 15 foreigners
trapped in the town.
Five Italian journalists and an Armenian colleague, who had been trapped in
the church compound by the fighting, were among those evacuated.
More than a dozen leaders of Christian churches in the Holy Land, including
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, tried to reach Bethlehem yesterday but were
turned away at an Israeli military checkpoint.
In other fighting, Israeli forces and Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerillas
exchanged cannon and rocket fire yesterday in the disputed Shebaa Farms
The US, which has been criticised for its dithering and one-sided policy on
the Middle East, moved yesterday to calm the intensifying storm.
Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated he was not ruling out meeting
Middle Eastern leaders in Europe next week.
"I'm willing to go to the region," he said.
"But I have to have a purpose that I can serve and something concrete to be
done. We're examining all possibilities."
Mr Powell also warned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel and
the US were paying a price in terms of international standing as a result of
the Israeli operation.
Meanwhile, in an apparent shift of policy, the White House said it was open
to pushing ahead with efforts to craft a political resolution to the
conflict despite the lack of a ceasefire agreement.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also renewed the US call for the
Palestinians to make "100 per cent" efforts to halt anti-Israeli violence
while sticking by Washington's support for Israel's "right to defend
Palestinian leaders have reiterated calls for their militia to resist.
"The Palestinian leadership urges our people to close ranks in a long-term
struggle against this occupation and to mobilise all its resources ... to
confront this unjust and criminal war," the Palestinian Authority said in a
The only major Palestinian towns spared from the violence are Hebron and
(c) Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd, 2002. 

Sources:DAILY TELEGRAPH (SYDNEY) 05/04/2002 P3 

05Apr2002 ISRAEL: News And Features - Massacre fears for 200 trapped in
By Ross Dunn, Herald Correspondent, in Jerusalem, and agencies.
Two years ago, when the Israeli-Palestinian clashes began spreading back
into Bethlehem, Nicola Andonia was married in the church next to his house.
/In tro
Two years ago, when the Israeli-Palestinian clashes began spreading back
into Bethlehem, Nicola Andonia was married in the church next to his house.
It is not just any church. It is the Church of the Nativity, the shrine
built over the cave where, tradition holds, Jesus was born.
Mr Andonia never imagined then that the conflict would enter the hallowed
sanctuary itself.
But yesterday more than 200 Palestinian gunmen who shot their way into the
church were refusing to surrender to Israeli troops outside. Three loud
explosions and heavy gunfire were heard, and a Palestinian, Mazen Hussein,
said by telephone from inside that Israeli forces were machinegunning a back
door of the church. The Israeli army denied its forces were responsible.
A priest at the church, Father Ibrahim Faltas, appealed for international
help to avert what he called a potential massacre.
"We appeal to the international community, nations of the world, to come our
rescue. Unless you do something to solve this issue we are in a real and
great danger of being massacred."
Bethlehem's mayor, Hanna Nasser, told the Herald that Israeli authorities
should not even contemplate storming the Church of the Nativity.
"I call on the Israelis to think not twice but one thousand [times] before
they attack the church, or this will become an international crisis."
Ibrahim Abayat, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, said by phone from
inside the church: "The situation is very difficult here. The tanks ... are
in Manger Square. We have wounded inside the church."
Mr Andonia, a Greek Orthodox Christian who lives metres from the church,
described the scene: "Tanks are beside our house and there has been
shooting. The Apache [helicopters] are over our houses and they have been
shooting at the mosque [across from the church] and people in Manger
He said the Omar Mosque, across from Manger Square, had been in flames on
Sunday but Israeli forces had prevented fire engines from reaching the area.
Mr Nasser, who has served on the council for 30 years, said he could not
remember a worse period. He has taken refuge in his home after Israeli
troops took over the municipal offices.
"I don't know how this problem is going to end," he said. The area was under
military rule and the residents were terrified to leave their houses.
"The only people in the street are the Israelis. Anybody who moves is in
danger of being killed automatically."
The Anglican Bishop, the Right Rev Riah Abu al Assal, along with other
church leaders including the Latin Patriarch of the Holy Land, Michel
Sabbah, were prevented by Israeli troops from entering Bethlehem yesterday.
Patriach Sabbah pleaded with Israel to withdraw its troops. "I think the
fight is over," he said. "The Israelis have done the fight, they have won
the fight, so there is no more reason for them to remain in Bethlehem. They
can go back peacefully."
An Italian journalist who witnessed the dramatic events that placed the
church at the centre of the conflict said the Palestinians had shot their
way in.
"They shot at the doors ... with machine-guns and they opened the doors and
rushed inside," Marc Innaro said. "We were in a monastery, which is very
close, 25 metres near to the Nativity Church, where there are 200
Palestinian gunmen.
"The 200 men are very determined and they don't want to surrender to the
Israeli Army."
Innaro said there had been no attempt by the Israelis to attack the church,
but they had maintained a presence around the shrine. "I can see clearly
three tanks parked 150 metres from me. The Israeli troops are not firing
towards the church."
The Church of the Nativity is built over the grotto where the Virgin Mary is
believed to have given birth to Jesus. It was established in the 4th century
and has been repeatedly rebuilt and extended. It has been damaged by
earthquakes and fire.
Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited 2002. Not available for

Sources:SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 05/04/2002 P1 

By Hazboun, Ibrahim.
Israeli tanks rolled into the West Bank's largest city, Nablus, on
Other Israeli troops, meanwhile, laid siege to a refugee camp in Jenin,
battling Palestinians who barricaded entrances and fought back with bombs
and guns. Soldiers also encircled hundreds of Palestinian gunmen who are
holed up in the church that tradition says marks Jesus' birthplace.
Twelve Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed on the sixth day of
Israel's offensive, which is aimed at crushing Palestinian militias and
stopping terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened Cabinet ministers to approve
the next stage of Operation Protective Wall. Only two major West Bank towns
- Hebron and Jericho - were still under Palestinian control late Wednesday.
President George W. Bush repeated his support for the Israeli assault, and
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was weighing a meeting with Israeli
and Arab leaders during a trip to Europe next week.
U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni remained in the region in an effort to implement a
truce plan authored in June by CIA Director George Tenet. The U.S. Embassy
has not released any information on Zinni's activities in recent days, and
no meetings were scheduled with either the Israelis or the Palestinians.
But daily anti-Israeli protests in the Arab world grew more violent.
Thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians clashed with security forces
Wednesday outside the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, with about 25 reported i
njured as protesters threw stones and security forces used tear gas and
water cannon.
Under pressure to cut off ties completely with Israel, Egypt took a more
limited step Wednesday, announcing it would suspend all diplomatic contacts
with Israel except those aimed at helping the Palestinians.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council debated a Palestinian-backed
resolution aimed at pressuring Israel to withdraw from its cities.
In five major Palestinian towns under full Israeli control - Ramallah,
Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem and Bethlehem - tanks patrolled streets,
enforcing strict curfews that confined hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
to their homes. In Ramallah, residents were without water after city
officials said Israeli troops destroyed the main pumping station during the
shelling of a Palestinian security compound.
The incursion into Nablus - a city of more than 100,000 people in the
northern West Bank - began Wednesday evening. Shellfire thundered as tanks
began rolling into the city. Gunmen and Palestinian police were moving in
the streets, closing roads with sandbags and planting mines.
A Palestinian woman was killed and five people wounded, apparently when
shells hit two apartments in downtown Nablus. Israeli forces, backed by a
ttack helicopters, surrounded the four Palestinian refugee camps next to the
city, witnesses said, and exchanges of fire erupted. The Israeli military
had no comment.
Fighting was heaviest Wednesday in Jenin, a militant stronghold north of
Nablus that Israel has invaded six times before in the past 18 months of
Dozens of tanks entered Jenin and surrounded the adjacent refugee camp early
Wednesday. Helicopters and tanks fired machine guns at gunmen who threw
grenades and fired from assault rifles. Five people, including a militia
leader, a nurse and a 13-year-old boy, were killed in the fighting. An
Israeli officer also was killed.
Armed men in the camp had prepared large amounts of homemade grenades and
bombs and built barricades to make it harder for Israeli tanks to enter.
Militiamen claimed they had damaged tracks of six tanks.
In Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian officials
failed to resolve a standoff at the Church of the Nativity, one of
Christianity's major shrines that is built over the site where tradition
says Jesus was born.
About 300 Palestinians, almost all of them armed, have been holed up in the
shrine since Tuesday, running from Israeli forces after hours of heavy
gunbattles near the church and adjacent Manger Square.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Israel did not intend to
break into the church, but army officials said those inside would not be
allowed to go free. Five Italian journalists and an Armenian colleague, who
had been trapped in the church compound by the fighting, were evacuated
More than a dozen leaders of Christian churches in the Holy Land, including
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, tried to reach Bethlehem on Wednesday but
were turned away at an Israeli military checkpoint.
Several dozen Palestinians, including some who were armed, also sought
sanctuary at St. Mary's, a Roman Catholic convent near Manger Square. At one
point Wednesday, a priest and seven nuns emerged from the convent, but by
then, the gunmen had slipped out the back, the army said. The Israeli army
spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey, said that the bound body of a Palestinian
man wearing a camouflage jacket was found in the building, but that the
circumstances of his death were unclear.
The bodies of five more Palestinians, including at least two gunmen, were
found elsewhere in Bethlehem. One of the corpses was discovered in a mosque
that witnesses said had been damaged by an Israeli tank shell.
The journalists trapped near the Church of the Nativity and several other
foreigners staying at the Bethlehem Star Hotel, near Manger Square, were
evacuated by security officials Wednesday and driven to safety in a convoy
of five armored vehicles. Witnesses said U.S. Marines aided in the
The names of the 15 or so evacuees, including Americans and Britons, were
In Ramallah, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remained a prisoner of Israel,
confined to a few rooms in his former headquarters. Raanan Gissin, an
adviser to Sharon, said Arafat "won't communicate (with the outside world)
until ... we see he is no longer a threat and not instigating terrorism."
Arafat, who is accompanied by about 300 people, including aides, security
guards and several dozen foreign volunteers, still has use of a mobile
phone. Israel insists that it is trying to keep him relatively comfortable.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military released a detailed list of supplies
shipped to Arafat and his entourage that day, including 66 packages of
yellow cheese, 55 cans of sardines, 34 cases of mineral water, 145 pounds of
coffee and packages of painkillers.
In Jordan, Arafat's neurologist said that his medical checkup was four
months overdue, but that the 72-year-old Palestinian leader seemed in good
spirits when the two spoke by phone over the weekend.
PRESS - The tower of the Church of the Nativity (left) rises above smoke
billowing across Bethlehem on Tuesday. Since then, scores of Palestinian
gunmen have been hiding inside the church, built on the site where, in
Christian tradition, Jesus was born. Israelis have surrounded the shrine.
(2) Color Map from KRT - VIOLENCE IN THE WEST BANK Source: The Associated
Press Jenin: Troops lay siege to a refugee camp. Nablus: Israeli tanks move
into the northern West Bank's major city. Ramallah: Thousands of American
citizens who live in the city are trapped in the conflict. Bethlehem:
Israeli troops encircle scores of Palestinians inside Church of the
Copyright Pulitzer Publishing Company Apr 4, 2002
(Copyright 2002)
c2002 ProQuest Information and Learning; All Rights Reserved. Only fair use,
as provided by the United States copyright law, is permitted. ProQuest
Information and Learning makes no warranty regarding the accuracy,
completeness or timeliness of the Publications or the records they contain,
or any warranty, express or implied, including any warranty of
merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, and shall not be liable
for damages of any kind or lost profits or other claims related to them or
their uses. 


04Apr2002 UK: Palestinian gunmen granted sanctuary at Christ's birthplace. 
By Ross Dunn in Jerusalem and Stephen Farrell in Ramallah.
THE scene of the Nativity turned into a theatre of war yesterday as Israeli
soldiers laid siege to the church on the spot where Christ was born, after
more than 100 Palestinian gunmen sought sanctuary there. Several bodies,
including a mother and son, were strewn across Manger Square, ambulances
unable to reach them in the crossfire, as Israeli tanks surrounded the
Church of the Nativity and helicopter gunships hovered above.
The gunmen were granted sanctuary after agreeing to lay down their arms and
were resting on pews and the ancient stone floor near the grotto. "In this
case, we have an obligation to give refuge to Palestinians and Israelis
alike," Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said. Such was the
Vatican's concern that it summoned the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See
and accused Israel of "imposing unjust conditions and humiliations" on the
The Vatican said that 40 Franciscan friars and nuns and 30 Greek Orthodox
and Armenian monks were also inside the church, which both Israelis and
Palestinians have promised not to damage.
Marc Innaro, an Italian television journalist in a monastery 25 yards away,
described how the gunmen forced their way into the church when Apache
helicopters began the assault on Manger Square on Tuesday night. "The doors
were locked, so to open the gates - the doors - they shot with machineguns
and rushed inside." The Israeli Army said that militiamen had opened fire
from the church and accused the Palestinians of exploiting holy sites.
The Mayor of Bethlehem, Hanna Nasser, said that Israel should not
contemplate storming the building. "I call the Israelis to think not twice
but a thousand times before they attack the church, or this will become an
international crisis," he said.
Mohammed Madani, the Governor of Bethlehem who is trapped in another section
of the church, denied that the gunmen had opened fire and said nuns were
treating the injured. "The biggest problem we have is that some of these
people haven't had food for two days and the injured don't have any
medication," he said.
"It is not just gunmen in here, anyone who was in Manger Square when they
started shelling rushed into the church to escape the gunfire."
Daily briefing, page 16
Border tensions, page 17
Leading article, page 23
(c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 2002.
(c) Not Available for Re-dissemination. 

Sources:THE TIMES 04/04/2002 P1 

04Apr2002 UK: Struggle to continue until "victory", says Palestinian
Secretary-General of Palestinian National Authority Council of Ministers
Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman has described Palestinian President Yasir Arafat as
"unshakable like the mountains of Palestine" who is "deeply rooted like the
olive trees". The following is the text of a telephone interview with
Abd-al-Rahman in Ramallah, by Iman al-Sharif in the Gaza television studio,
broadcast live the by Palestinian TV on 4 April; subheadings inserted

[Al-Sharif] How can you describe this Israeli arrogance and this fierce
onslaught against the Palestinian people in all the Palestinian territories?
The Israeli forces are storming the city of Nablus. There are fierce clashes
near the Jenin camp. The city of Jenin is also being stormed.

[Abd-al-Rahman] First of all, I would like to say this line of poetry to the
Israelis and Sharon: You are butting a hard rock, but only harming yourself.
The Palestinian people are the owners of this land. They have been deeply
planted in its soil for thousands of years. No Israeli bulldozer or tank can
eliminate the Palestinian people. The Israelis have been trying for a 100
years since the Basle Conference to deny the existence of the Palestinian
people, but to no avail. They wanted a homeland without people for people
without a homeland. Has this come true? This has been proven to be a lie.

Golda Meir denied the presence of Palestinian children. She asked where the
children of Palestine were. We tell her yes they are the RPG carriers and
they are the boys and girls of camps who are today standing in the face of
the Israeli aggression. The Israeli war machine cannot at all shake the
Palestinian people's faith in their right to this land.

[Al-Sharif] Can you reassure us about President Yasir Arafat at these
critical hours?

Arafat "symbol and leader"

[Abd-al-Rahman] This man - a man of a historical dream and leader of the
revolution and people in their march to Jerusalem - is unshakable like the
mountains of Palestine and deeply rooted like the olive trees of Palestine.
He does not weaken or shake. All that is going on around him proves the
credibility of this man's faith in his homeland and people. Therefore,
regardless of the daily Israeli aggression against the presidential compound
and despite water, telephone and power outages, President Yasir Ararat, who
believes in his people, realizes that he has behind him an invincible
people. Today I tell the Israelis that Yasir Arafat has linked his personal
destiny to that of this homeland. He triumphs with its triumph and falls
martyr with its martyrdom. Yasir Arafat is today the symbol and leader. He
is an example to be emulated. Accordingly, every Palestinian today is called
Yasir Arafat. Eight million Palestinians are today called Yasir Arafat.
Despite the current difficult circumstances and for the seventh day, he
continues to say he sees light at the end of the tunnel. It is the light of
victory, freedom and independence. This dark night will certainly come to an
end and the bright dawn of Palestine will certainly break. Our blood lights
the way to Palestinian freedom. Our blood will flow profusely for the sake
of the freedom of this homeland. Therefore, I say that President Yasir
Arafat is leading the march from where he is now and from what remains of
the presidential headquarters. He is a firm, steadfast and solid believer
because there are people behind him in spite of what is going on in Nablus,
Jenin and heroic Bethlehem.

I seize this opportunity to salute Patriarch Michel Sabbah and all Christian
clergymen from all communities and all Muslim men of religion in Bethlehem,
the birthplace of Jesus Christ. They are true men who yesterday stood up and
defied the occupation forces at the military roadblock near Bethlehem. They
are now with the Palestinian civilians at the Church of the Nativity,
extending to them food, drink, first aid and protection. These people,
Christians and Muslims, are recording a miracle and legend because they were
brought up after Yasir Arafat's manners and adopt his policy - the policy of
firm national unity, the policy of Christian-Muslim fraternity, and the
policy of protecting the Christian and Islamic holy places.

Palestinian state to be in Gaza

[Al-Sharif] Some political analysts say the Israelis do not want to occupy
Gaza because they are planning to set up a Palestinian state there. What is
your comment?

[Abd-al-Rahman] Great Gaza is in the heart of every Palestinian, and all of
Palestine is in the heart of every Gazan. Why have the people and heroes of
Gaza made sacrifices over the years? They sacrificed [themselves] for the
sake of Jerusalem, Nablus and Jenin. Are the martyrs of the national
security forces and all other services not from valiant Gaza? They are
fighting in Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm and Bethlehem. There is no room for
tampering with the unity of the Palestinian homeland. Palestine, just like
the Palestinian people, cannot be divided or split. They tried to remove us
from the Middle East political map and from history, but Palestine as
geography and history returned because it has such heroes in Gaza, Jerusalem
and currently rising Nablus. It has heroes in the heroic Jenin camp, which
is teaching the aggressors an unforgettable lesson. These heroes are
destroying the [Israeli] tanks with their bodies. I salute all the sons of
our people and tell brave and steadfast Gaza that Palestine is your
Palestine and it is a trust deposited with you. You are the ones who made
sacrifices for Palestine over the years. Your role is coming in order to
teach the Sharon-led arrogant Israeli occupiers a lesson that tells them
that great Gaza extends to become all of Palestine. I tell those who lie and
concoct plots that Gaza is the heart of Palestine. It is part of Palestine.
It lives for the sake of Palestine and it [offers] sacrifices for the sake
of Palestine and Jerusalem under the leadership of our president and symbol
Yasir Arafat.

Arab Knesset members

[Al-Sharif] The Israeli forces attacked Arab Knesset members like Dr Ahmad
al-Tibi in total disregard for international laws, norms and charters. They
attacked children and prevented them from bringing food and other essential
needs. We see world silence over the massacres being perpetrated against the
Palestinian people.

[Abd-al-Rahman] I salute our beloved people in Nazareth, Galilee, the
Triangle and the Negev who demonstrated yesterday in support of their
kinsfolk and extended medical and food aid to them. They were headed by
Knesset members. All of them went out. Four of them were wounded. Muhammad
Barakah, Al-Tibi, Abd-al-Malik al-Dahamishah and Azmi Bisharah were wounded.
They were all in the front lines. This is the Palestinian bravery. This is
the national Palestinian cohesion. Yesterday, they exposed the falsehood of
the Israeli democracy. Muhammad Barakah said: They beat the Knesset members
with the butts of their guns, so imagine the crimes they are committing
against the Palestinian people in Ramallah and the besieged cities. Yes,
yesterday our people in the Triangle, Galilee and Negev recorded a bright
page in the book of the our people's heroic deeds. They are the people of
the valiant Land Day. They announced years and years ago that they are
Palestinians who adhere to the land, and that they will not relinquish their
identity or land. Greetings to our sons, greetings to the men who went to
the Qalandiyah roadblock yesterday and defied the occupation forces. They
finally managed to send food and medical assistance to our besieged people
in Ramallah.

[Al-Sharif] Thank you very much, Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman, secretary-general of
the Palestinian Cabinet in Ramallah. We will continue to be in touch to know
the latest developments. We will also be together until we reach Jerusalem,
God willing.

[Abd-al-Rahman] Thank you and may God bless you.

Source: Palestinian Satellite Channel TV, Gaza, in Arabic 0940 gmt 4 Apr 02.
BBC Worldwide Monitoring/ (c) BBC 2002. 


04Apr2002 LEBANON: Vatican condemns 'injustice' by Israel - Pope speaks of
'great danger' facing Bethlehem. 
Compiled by Daily Star Staff
Alarmed by fighting in Bethlehem, the Vatican stepped up its diplomatic
drive Wednesday, condemning terrorism and the treatment of Palestinians.
Vatican officials have met over the past two days with the Israeli and US
envoys to the Holy See and a representative of the Arab League.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Holy See's position
expressed in the meetings includes an "unequivocal condemnation of
terrorism, from whichever side it comes," and a disapproval of the
"conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people"
as well as reprisals that it said "only increase the sense of frustration
and hatred."
The Vatican, Navarro-Valls said, also calls on all parties to respect UN
resolutions, proportionality in the use of legitimate means of defense and
the protection of sites holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
In the meeting with the Arab League representative, the Vatican insisted on
the need for an end to "indiscriminate acts of terrorism."
Pope John Paul II is said to be closely following the situation.
On Monday, just hours after Israeli tanks entered Bethlehem, he spoke of his
"apprehension" at the "great danger" confronting the town where Christians
believe Jesus was born.
A standoff is continuing between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen, who
had sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity's
holiest sites. Witnesses said between 200-300 people were holed up without
food. They said most were civilians, including women and children, and six
were wounded.
But Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said
"dozens of armed Palestinians, some of them implicated in terrorist
activities, are hiding in the building and exploiting a church.
"The Palestinians inside must surrender and come out with their hands up,"
he said. "We do not intend to kill them. Those involved in terrorist
activities will be arrested and interrogated, and the others set free."
Palestinian security sources said a 39-year-old Palestinian was killed by
sniper fire outside the Church of the Nativity.
Michel Sabbah, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said the Palestinians could
claim sanctuary and had already laid down their arms: "In this case, we have
an obligation to give refuge to Palestinians and Israelis alike."
The Palestinians were pinned down in Manger Square, where witnesses say the
Israelis arrested about 20 people but Israeli reports say 25 armed
Palestinians were detained. - With agencies.

Sources:THE DAILY STAR 04/04/2002 
 Kind regards, and Salam Aleikum, Shalom, Peace

Arno Tausch

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