Bethlehem: food runs out at besieged church

 As the siege of the Church of the Nativity nears its third week, the Franciscans said yesterday that all their food supplies have been used up. "There is no food left in the church now for the Palestinians or the monks and nuns," Fr Ibrahim Faltas told the BBC. Palestinians in the church, and negotiators trying to end the stand-off, say there is no running water, intermittent electricity and a body decaying in a cave below the church, traditionally said to be the place where Jesus was born. A Palestinian policeman inside the church said soldiers had been blocking supplies of food and medical supplies to the church complex. "We were living on rice and spaghetti and now it's almost gone. There's no salt. We're mostly on water," he told Reuters news agency by mobile telephone on Saturday. An Israeli army spokesman said Red Cross workers were taking food into the church. But those inside the church denied this, saying the army had dropped leaflets over the wall in plastic bottles which read: "We know you are without food" - "Think well and decide about your life." More than 240 people are barricaded in the ancient building, including civilians, around 40 priests and nuns, and 30 Palestinians who the Israeli army says are wanted militants. Several people are injured. On Sunday the missionary news service learnt that a further six nuns are trapped in their convent behind the church. Most of the sisters are elderly - one is 93. One is Maltese, one French, one Spanish, one Turkish and two Palestinians. On Friday they still had a little food and water, but were without power. Because of the shootings in the streets they are unable to venture out of their convent.

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