Bethlehem nuns under siege

 A group of religious sisters in Bethlehem have been living under military siege for nearly two months. The news has just been released by the Rome-based news agency Zenit. The five nuns, who are members of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Most Holy of the Garden in Bethlehem, care for children and elderly people in a home five minutes from the Basilica of the Nativity. Sister Jacinta said soldiers have been posted in front of the house for the past two months, because the army believes the nuns offer hospitality to Palestinians. She said the building was surrounded by tanks, and at five o'clock each morning soldiers begin shouting: 'There is a curfew, no one can go out. Circulation is prohibited.'" "At regular intervals, they fire cannons or machine guns," she said. All of Bethlehem and the surrounding towns are under curfew. While the days are now extremely hot, people are not allowed out of their homes for more than three hours a week - to catch up on essential shopping. Since the war began, businesses have collapsed and few people have worked for two years. Sr Jacinta told Zenit a major concern was for the elderly - many of whom have been unable to get medicines, or see their families for months. The children have been unable to go out to register for school. She said the community were appealing to Caritas and the Red Cross for help. Yesterday, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief committees, a group of doctors and health professionals, described the situation in the whole of the West Bank as a 'humanitarian disaster'. They said in a statement: "For nearly a month, two million residents of the West Bank have been under almost constant curfew. This deliberate policy by the Israeli government has created a humanitarian disaster throughout the West Bank. Hospitals, schools, universities as well as civil and governmental institutions have been completely paralyzed. Furthermore, the Israeli-imposed curfew has decimated the economy leaving a considerable percentage of Palestinians under the poverty line and nearing levels of starvation. "The Israeli government's curfews are intended to, and have succeeded in destroying the socio-economic infrastructure of Palestine. Its collective punishment measures represent a severe violation of international law, and have no justification as security measures." For more information visit the committee's new website at:

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