Israeli Court Rejects Franciscan Bid for Electricity and Phone Service

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, APRIL 25, 2002 ( Israel's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land for the restitution of electricity and phone service to the friars at the Basilica of the Nativity.

The court today said the friars are not hostages but have decided on their own to stay in their monastery. The 35 friars and four nuns have been in the basilica complex since the siege started April 2.

Contrary to some media reports, the Franciscans there have not received any food, the Franciscan Custody confirmed.

"A convoy organized by the Italian Consulate arrived in Bethlehem on Wednesday and aid was distributed among the local population, but the Israeli army did not allow the distribution of food to the religious of the monastery," reported the secretariat of Father Giacomo Bini, minister general of the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor.

Two bodies and nine Palestinian minors were evacuated from the basilica. A new meeting of the Israeli-Palestinian Commission was expected today, to seek an end to the siege.