Aelony - Church of Nativity - Bethlehem - Comment - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper
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    • * BEN JABO
    • 28.04.07 | 05:51 (IDT)

    More reasons why Christians fled Bethlehem.On April 2, 2002 armed Palestinian Arab terrorists forced their way into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of Christianity's most sacred sites, the birthplace of Christ. In the midst of over 200 nuns and priests, they sought refuge from Operation Defensive Shield, the Israel Defense Forces action against suicide bombing activity originating from West Bank locations. For 38 days, until May 10, 2002, the world watched as the gunmen refused to surrender their positions inside the Church. Only Israeli restraint and respect for the Christian shrine prevented the Palestinian desecration from turning into its destruction. Why was the IDF in Bethlehem at the time? In December, 1995, Israel had turned over control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority, but the PA failed to quell terrorist activities. Quite the contrary; terrorism never stopped and after September 2000, increased dramatically with the al-Aqsa Intifada. In February and March, 2002, more than two dozen Israelis had died in five separate incidents of murder, bombings and gunfire within Israel and the territories, with over six dozen injured. In each case, the Fatah in Bethlehem claimed responsibility for the deaths. In the first days of April 2002, an IDF Paratroop Brigade moved into the area to seek out and destroy explosives, arms factories and related terrorist infrastructure. A heavily armed band of terrorist gunmen, trying to evade the IDF, moved into Manger Square but found IDF troops and tanks ready for them. That triggered a planned and premediated Palestinian Arab operation to take over the Church of the Nativity. IDF forces began negotiations to end the takeover. The Palestinian Arabs inside the church included many who were known terrorists and Israel demanded that they surrender. They were members of Palestinian groups on the U.S. Department of State Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, including several Hamas operatives who had killed innocent civilians. Also taking cover in the Church were Tanzim militia leaders from Yasir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who were involved in recent suicide bombings, plus members of the Al Aqsa Brigade. Israel identified the terrorist individuals by name and sought to take them into custody; the Palestinian Authority refused to transfer them into Israeli hands. Nor were representatives of other governments helpful in concluding the matter. An early agreement to end the standoff failed when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declined to accept the gunmen, saying that no one nation could be asked to take that responsibility, and the European Union needed to find an EU solution.

    from the article: Protesters rally in Jaffa against move to evict local Arab families
    First published 00:00 27.04.07 | Last updated 00:00 27.04.07
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