Witnesses reported heavy gunfire, smoke and flames at the Church of the Nativity late last night. They said the sky was lit up and loud explosions could be heard around the church. Rooms in the Franciscan compound and the quarters of the Orthodox monks were reported to be in flames. There is little water inside to extinguish a fire. Journalist Israel Shamir said: "Israeli soldiers shot flares on its wooden roof, and flame spread out." There is no immediate word of casualties. The church remains the last point of contention from Israel's large-scale incursion into the West Bank that began on March 29. About 200 people are still trapped inside, including 30 monks and nuns.
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