Bethlehem: court rules besieged friars must be allowed food

 Following a desperate appeal from the Franciscans holed up the Church of the Nativity for the third week, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled yesterday that the army must allow food to be sent into the compound. Last Friday the monks reported that they had used the last of their meagre supply of rice and pasta. Speaking by telephone from the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem, Franciscan Fr Abdenl Mash Fayez told the missionary news service: "We will be able to send the necessary daily food supplies to the community and the soldiers will be obliged to deliver the provisions." He said there would be no action until the evening and added that they had not received any response to a request for the restoration of their electricity, telephone and water supplies. There are about 30 people including four sisters, in the Franciscan community. The court said that the Greek Orthodox monks who are trapped in the complex could also ask for food to be sent in. The court did not issue any ruling concerning food for the 240 or so Palestinians in the complex. Their condition has been described as 'precarious'. A third meeting between the army and the Palestinians ended yesterday without resolution.