BETHLEHEM, Mar 12, 02 (FIDES/ -- The city of
Bethlehem, the object of a major Israeli military
offensive last week, now resembles a ghost town,
according to a report from the Fides news service.

Bethlehem University, which is funded by the Vatican,
has been forced to close down because of fears for the
safety of students. During the night of March 8, a
wire-guided missile was fired at the newly inaugurated
Millennium Hall on the school's campus, blowing out
windows and window frames. The impact damaged two other
nearby buildings, housing the Institute of Hotel
Management and the Social and Cultural Center.

Speaking to Fides, Christian Brother Vincent Malham,
the American-born president of Bethlehem's Christian
University, launched an appeal: "In this tragic
situation, we beg the international community to help
pressure Israel to withdraw its soldiers from the
Palestinian Territories and to resume peace talks."

Brother Malham rejected the Israeli explanation that
the military offensive was aimed at Palestinian
militants. "There is no fighting on the campus," he
pointed out.