Situation in the Holy Land
Saturday 20, 2001

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

You are fully aware of the dramatic situation in the whole Palestinian territories and Bethlehem area in particular, since I have already updated you with the statement of the Patriarchs and the Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem, and with the letter of the Patriarch to the faithful. But in order to give you more details I send you in this Olive Branch the letter of the Mayor of Bethlehem Mr. Hanna Naser which was sent to our Patriarch. You will see that the Israeli Army has occupied many parts of the City leaving a lot of damages on properties and lives, among the 9 martyrs of the last two days there are three who are Christians: Mousa George Abu Eid (19 years old from Beit Jala); Rania Elias Kharoufeh (22 years old girl from Beit Jala) and Johonny Thaljieh (16 years old boy from Bethlehem) who was shoot dead exactly on the Nativity Square in front of the Basilica of the birth of the Prince of Peace our Lord Jesus Christ.

The situation until now is very dramatic and might worsen in the next days if they donít stop this aggression and withdraw from the City of the Nativity. And since many people from Bethlehem area are calling us day and night appealing that we do something, the Heads of the Churches decided to undertake a solidarity visit to the people of Bethlehem after tomorrow, Monday 23rd of 2001. Arrangements are under way to arrive to Tantour checkpoint at 3 p.m. with a convoy of diplomatic and normal cars full of all the heads of the Churches of Jerusalem; we will then proceed to the Nativity Square for a short prayer and visit of condolence to both the myrtrs of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. All the religious congregations are and journalists are called to join the convoy, which has two aims: show our solidarity with the people of Bethlehem area; call upon Israel to withdraw its army from the area immediately.
Fr. Raed Abusahlia
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
P.O.Box  14152 - Jerusalem 97500
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