by Ghassan Andoni, a Christian who lives 100 meters from the Church of Nativity,
April 20, 2002
It is amazing how Israeli propaganda can twist facts. Even more amazing is how much people can be influenced by twisted facts. Regarding the Church of Nativity, there are two versions of the story.
The Israeli version: A large group of armed "terrorists" entered the Church of Nativity. They took dozens of civilians including Christian priests and monks as hostages and are using them as human shields to launch attacks on the Israeli army, which is surrounding the place. Therefore, Israel is attempting to rescue the hostages and capture the "terrorists."
The Palestinian version: As the Israeli army invaded Bethlehem and Israeli tanks approached Manger Square, around 240 Palestinians, including some armed Palestinians, entered the Church seeking a safe shelter. Armed Palestinians laid down their light weapons and are seeking the protection of the Christian clergy inside the church.
Who are the people inside the church?
All sources from inside the church including Father Ibrahim Faltas, Christian Lawyer Tony Salman, and the governor of Bethlehem Mohammad Almadani confirmed repeatedly that the vast majority of the people inside are innocent civilians who ran into the church to save their lives. The armed Palestinians who entered the church were mostly members of Palestinian Authority Tourism Police, policemen from the adjacent Palestinian police station, and some Palestinians who decided to defend their city from the Israeli invasion.
The Vatican has repeatedly announced that all people inside the church are non-engaged and only seeking a shelter that the church is willing to provide. The Vatican repeatedly affirmed that there is NO hostage-taking situation.
As the siege of the church continued, Israel employed a continued pressure to force the people inside the church to surrender. The methods being used by the Israeli army include:
- Preventing any supplies of food. Currently people inside the church are starving.
- Preventing evacuation of dead bodies from inside the church. (Two corpses are still inside)
- Preventing any medical help for scores of injured people (nuns are dealing with the situation with primitive first aid means).
- Positioning snipers all over the place and shooting at any moving target. So far two people were killed inside the church and two more wounded, including an Armenian Priest.
- Shooting randomly inside the church. This random shooting resulted in a fire that destroyed three rooms inside the church. A Palestinian was shot dead by a sniper while attempting to extinguish the fire.
- Throwing rounds of sound grenades into and around the church, and transmitting through loudspeakers into the church, sounds that are beyond the threshold of pain. This is going on all day and especially at night, and is resulting in the bleeding of ears.
- Attempted twice to burst into the church from its eastern entrance. In one attempt they destroyed one of the church gates using explosives.
So far, and aside from the suffering of people inside the church, considerable damage has been done to the church itself. With the little protest and concern from the side of the Christians all over the world and from the side of the international community, it is likely that Israel will escalate its assault, inevitably resulting in more damage.
All attempts to negotiate a settlement to this situation have failed. Israel insists on either complete surrender without conditions or a deportation outside the country. They are refusing the involvement of any third party in mediation efforts.
It is extremely worrying that with the increased pressure on Israel to leave the PA areas, Israel might attack the church in an attempt to kill or arrest people inside.
THIS COULD RESULT IN A MASSACRE IN THE CHURCH, AND MAY DESTROY THE CHURCH.
SOMETHING URGENT MUST BE DONE TO PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING!!
Kindly contact your government officials ASAP and demand that they do what they can to intervene in this dangerous situation! It is EXTREMELY URGENT.
If you are in the US, to find your representatives go to http://www.eMailCongress.net
The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People http://www.rapprochement.org