- (AFP) - Shooting erupted around the Nativity Church in
Bethlehem, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported, with firing appearing
to come from both Palestinians inside the church compound and from Israeli
forces besieging it.
- A Palestinian inside the church with some 200 Palestinians,
including wanted gunmen, told AFP by telephone that gunfire was being exchanged,
and that the Israelis tossed a tear-gas grenade into the church compound
at the start of the gun battle.
- He said one of the rooms in the compound caught fire
in the exchange, which the Palestinians said caused no injuries to those
holed up inside.
- A bus also caught fire outside the compound's Saint Catherine
church, the Roman Catholic church built adjacent to the basilica of the
Nativity, a Greek Orthodox church marking the site where most Christians
believe Jesus Christ was born.
- An Israeli army spokeswoman said the gun battle was started
by militants holed up inside the church compound, where the Palestinians
and 30 monks have been encircled for 21 days.