- Food inside the besieged Church of the Nativity is growing
scarcer, with the 235 civilians, fighters and members of the clergy now
existing on a diet of water and some vegetables taken from the back garden
under the eyes of Israeli snipers.
- The men and women, who have been trapped inside the church
for nearly three weeks, are growing more desperate and hungry.
- Mohammed Madoni, the Governor of Bethlehem, speaking
to The Times by mobile phone from inside the church, said: ìThe
situation is more serious than ever. But we will never give up. Itís
not even to be mentioned.î Mr Madoni said that no one will countenance
the Israeli proposal that the wanted men be deported to Jordan. Instead,
the Governor said that the group would propose that the fighters be offered
safe passage to Gaza or Jordan and then tried under Palestinian law.
- Inside the church, he said, the situation was growing
desperate. By Saturday, the group was reduced to a diet of water and salt,
but now even salt had run out.
- ìToday one of us managed to get to the back garden
at great risk and dig out some vegetables,î he said. ìThe
Israelis shot at him but he was not hurt.î
- Two dead bodies remained inside the Basilica and there
was no way of burying them. ìIt is impossible for them to get outside
long enough to dig a hole without getting shot at,î a Roman Catholic
priest in Bethlehem, who communicates with the group, said.
- According to Peter Qumi, director of the nearby Beit
Jala Hospital, there are several people inside with gunshot wounds.ìThey
have no medics or nurses inside and are just managing the best way that
they can,î he said.
- There is running water inside the compound and three
lavatories for the group. Also inside is a 14-year-old boy suffering from
kidney disease, whom Mr Madoni has tried to persuade to leave. ìI
have begged him but he refuses.î
- Despite that, Mr Madoni said that none of the people
trapped inside has been fighting, despite earlier reports that they fight
among themselves for food.
- Food is the paramount concern: ìIf we donít
have a military disaster, we will have a starvation disaster,î Mr
Madoni said. According to Dr Qumi, the group will not live longer than
seven or eight days without food.
- The Pope has called for an end to the stand-off at the
Church of the Nativity. The pontiff made his appeal for peace during his
Sunday address, decrying the violence seen in an unending stream of news
- ìThese pictures have more force than any appeal
and push us not to leave any attempt untried, so that that land, blessed
by God, can emerge soon from the spiral of hate and violence,î he