- The Israeli Army is broadcasting ear-splitting screeches
and wails at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, traditional site
of Jesus' birth, to force out 200 Palestinians besieged there.
- Troops brought in a crane to hoist loudspeakers over
the ancient basilica, one of the holiest shrines in Christendom, as part
of what one person inside called "psycho terror". One of the
noises sounds like a car alarm.
- Camped outside the church, the army estimates there are
about 50 wanted Palestinian militants inside, with clergy and civilians.
- The Israeli Government offered a deal on Sunday under
which the wanted men would be given a choice between permanent exile and
trial before a military court. "If they leave, it's for good but,
if they stay, then they will have to stand trial in Israel," said
a spokesman for the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. The offer was put by
the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to the Palestinian leader, Yasser
Arafat, during talks on Sunday.
- Palestinian negotiators immediately rejected it, saying
the men would not accept exile, and if they were to be judged it should
be before a Palestinian court. But they would accept any deal that Mr Arafat
- In an appeal on Friday the trapped Palestinians called
for United Nations intervention to save them from "a slow death".
- They have been deprived of food for almost two weeks,
and the army has shot at Palestinian youths lobbing bags of bread into
- "We are hearing loud whistles and screeches in the
daytime and now at night," said the Governor of Bethlehem, Mahmoud
Madani, who is inside the church. "They want to destroy our morale,
but the only solution is a negotiated settlement."
- The church has responded to the caterwauling by ringing
- In a major blow to the Palestinian resistance, Israel
last night arrested Marwan Barghouthi, a leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah
faction in the West Bank and regarded by Israel as the top militant in
the area, Israeli security sources said.
- Barghouthi, sought by Israel since it launched a West
Bank offensive on March 29, was arrested in the city of Ramallah, the sources
- (With agencies)