Yesterday, news agencies reporting on the Mideast conflict informed that several Armenian priests left the Church of the Nativity compound in Bethlehem.
The Church is one of Christianity’s holiest sites, as it was built on the very spot where, as the legend says, Jesus had been born. The attention of the whole of the world community is focused on the site for the third week running because of the Israel’s operation "Defensive Shield" on the Palestinian Authority’s territory. Israeli occupied Palestinian towns and settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza strip, including Bethlehem.
Hundreds of armed Palestinians (Israeli reconnaissance reports the amount of 200 people) are holed up in the church. Several Christian priests are in the building as well, they stayed on their free will all difficulties and destitution that are typical of such situations. By doing so, they tried to cease the bloodshed from both sides and prevent the destruction of the church.
Israeli’s numerous attempts to persuade the people to surrender have failed. The Israeli army, in its turn, did not storm the church, as it does not want to suffer heavy losses on its side. As we know, the defender enjoys the privilege. The position war has lasted for several weeks. Israeli has stormed the church several times, but each time ended in failure.
The church itself suffered greatly during the stormings: the rear gates were blown up, and a part of the unique structure was destroyed.
As it was impossible to come to an agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli decided to starve them out. Foreign journalists received information that food and water reserves are running out, not to mention medicine and dressings. The information was reported in a telephone conversation with the Bethlehem mayor. I think that we should mention the negative reaction of the Christian world when it demanded Israel should stop the siege of the Church of Nativity. It is perfectly clear that Israel is ignoring the demands; moreover, it launched large-scale propaganda instead. The Palestinians are accused of using hostages and the Christian relic as a cover. However, I would not say the people in the church are hostages. Palestinian sources, which may be also treated as propaganda, report the people entered the church on their free will.
We may debate at length which propaganda is more truthful, Palestinian or Israeli, and still the problem will be unsettled. In any case, here is the recent information from the Israeli. As we mentioned above, several priests managed to escape the church compound. They say that the Palestinians plundered the Church of Nativity and stole gold and silver goods. The priests thanked the Israeli command for saving the lives of the hostages.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/04/24/40214.html