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Bethlehem friars fear further Israeli strike on compound

As officials make assurances that the government is attempting to defuse the situation, an Israeli military spokesman has said the army intends to make things as difficult as possible for the Palestinian militants inside the Church of the Nativity compound.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ordered the men barricaded inside the Nativity Church not to surrender, while the Israeli army says it will only withdraw after the surrender of all the militants.

Meanwhile the body of 23 year-old Khaled Syam, shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to put out a fire in the parish office of the Franciscan monastery in the Nativity compound, is still inside the compound. The Israeli army will not let the Franciscans take the body out to the family who are anxious to bury the boy. 24 hours after the death, the body is beginning to show signs of decomposition. This is causing also a sanitary problem for the friars and the 200 Palestinians barricaded inside the Holy Place. Israel troops refuse to let food and water supplies into the monastery.

Holy Land Custody spokesman Fr David Jaeger, speaking from Custody offices in Jerusalem, told Fides "the only ray of hope for the besieged Friars comes from the words of the Pope and initiatives by the Holy See like the mission of Archbishop Tauran. We hope that the national leaders will let themselves be guided by God."


10 Apr 2002