From: Rapprochement Centre
What is the real story around the church of nativity?
Written by: Ghassan Andoni ( a Christian who lives 100 meters away from the Church of Nativity)
It is amazing how much one can twist facts. But more amazing is how much people can be influenced by twisted facts. In relation to the Church of Nativity, two stories are being widely circulated.
The Israeli story: 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 story: 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 arms and are seeking the protection of the Christian clergy inside the church.
Who are the people inside the church?
All resources 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 fight against the Israeli invasion of their city.
The Vatican repeatedly announced that all people inside the church are non-engaged and only seeking a shelter that the church is welling 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. Some methods used are:
Preventing any supplies of food. Currently people inside the church are starving.
Prevent evacuate dead bodies from inside the church. (Two bodies are still inside)
Prevent 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 shoot dead by a sniper while attempting to extinguish the fire.
Throwing rounds of sound grenades into and around the church. This is going on all daytime and especially at night.
Transmitting, through loudspeakers, sounds that are beyond the threshold of pain into the church.
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 have 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 upgrade its assault and might cause more substantial damage.
All attempts to negotiate a settlement to this situation 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 such 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. It can happen, it might result in a massacre taking place inside the church, and it might destroy the Church. Something urgent must be done to prevent this from happening.
The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People
64 Star Street, P.O.Box 24
Beit Sahour - Palestine