Olive Branch - Issue No. 144 -
Wednesday, 10 April 2002

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

It seems that we are dead-locked in a very dangerous situation which donít have an immediate solution, especially in Bethlehem and in particular at the Nativity Church, because as far as the Basilica is under siege, the whole Bethlehem area will remain under strict curfew and siege which will lock 100.000 people inside their homes for more days. The 250 persons, including the Franciscan priests and sisters, are their since 8 days in a very bad condition because they donít have water, electricity, medicine a some few more food is remaining which will finish with the next days. Further more, they are day and night terrorized by the tanks, soldiers, snipers who are surrounding the basilica from all sides and sometimes they are shooting sound and light bombs. It seems that negotiation on this issue are not progressing because the Israelis are insisting on their surrender in order to arrest them all and after security screening the might release them, even president Moshe Katsav today wrote a letter to the Pope telling him that "Under the circumstances, I regret that with all the respect and consideration we have for the Christian holy places, we have no alternative but to prevent armed Palestinian terrorists, who have murdered innocent Jews, from escaping and continuing their acts of bloodshed," Katsav told the Pope.

The situation might become worst if things continue like this. Already today an armeinan monk was shot and seriously wounded in the Church of the Nativity compound in Bethlehem, but he didnít die because he was evacuated by the army after recognizing their mistake. But yesterday another man was shot and wounded and still bleading inside. The day before yesterday a another young man was shot dead and after all the necessary intervetions with the army they didnít permit the Red Cross to evacuate his body to the hospital, and therefore, they were obliged to burry him inisde the compound of the Basilica after two days of his death with the intention to tranfer his body later on because he is a moslem and from Gaza. You see that the humanitarian side of the bloody war is not respected at all and this is a clear violation of all the human values and the interenational convention about the protection of civilians during war. This is hapenning everywhere, and it happened also in Nablous and especially in Jenin refugee camp were hundreds of bodies remaind on the streets for several days and ambulances where not allowed to enter the camp to evacate it.

You will hear a lot of these stories in the next days when the war finished and you will discover that massacres were committed in front of the eyes of the worldÖ but let me just share with you a small experience which happened with me yesterday: You know that every single town, village and refugee camp in the Palestinian territories is under complete closure and siege, and people sometimes cannot move outside of their villages and go to work. One of our parishes which is 25 Kms far from Ramallah called Aboud is one of these serious cases, it is under closure since more than one month, and shops lack essential food supplies, and even some of the 400 families cannot afford to by food because simply they donít have any more money. Therefore, yesterday, and after three days of coordination with the Israeli army, I was able to send them a camion of 5 tons of food which was offered by one of our parishes in Galilee called Shafa Amr, it was a real adventure to use our diplomatic car in order to accompany the camion and cross the checkpoints and deliver the food to our parish priest who will take care of distributing it to needy families. You see that people here are deprived of their essential rights to move, to work and to have food and medical care that they badly need more during difficult time like the war we are living in these days. It is a real hardship to live in the land under these conditions of life imposed on a whole nation!?!?

Fr. Raed Abusahlia
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
P.O.Box  14152 - Jerusalem 97500
E-mail address: latinpat@actcom.co.il
Personal e-mail: nonviolence@writeme.com
Patriarchate's Homepage: http://www.lpj.org
Personal Homepage: http://go.to/nonviolence
Fr. Labib's Homepage: http://www.al-bushra.org
My brother's Homepage: http://go.to/samipage