BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Apr 26, 02 ( - A spokesman
for the Israeli army said on Friday that a "military option"
may be necessary to end the 23-day standoff between Israelis
and Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the

"We do not want to prolong this, therefore we could resort
to a military option," army spokesman Captain Joel Leyden
told reporters, saying that talks with Palestinians aimed
at resolving the impasse could not be pursued indefinitely.

The strong language came on the same day that Israeli
shoulders shot and wounded two Palestinians inside the
church compound and as US President George W. Bush called
for a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Israeli
officials had previously said the army would not storm the

Israeli military sources said the two wounded men were
"high up on the list of terrorists in the church," and that
they had threatened soldiers after four other Palestinians
left the church and surrendered. "Four unarmed
Palestinians, two in police uniform, gave themselves up to
our troops, and then two gunmen were spotted in the church
compound, about to fire. Troops shot and wounded them, and
then took them into custody for treatment," they said.