Church of Nativity comes under gunfire

 The besieged Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem came under prolonged fire yesterday afternoon. At 1.30pm Fr Ibrahim Faltas telephoned Fr Giacomo Bini, Minister General of the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, in Rome, to tell him that Israeli soldiers had started shooting at the basilica, the sacristy and the monastery's kitchen. Fr Faltas called the Missionary News Service to make a dramatic appeal. He said: "They are shooting at the monastery and at us. We don't know what is happening in the Nativity complex, we have heard detonations, but we don't know what is happening outside there." "They have broken at least four windows of the Casa Nova residence, the centre for receiving pilgrims and a window of the sacristy. They have also damaged the kitchen, they are shooting all over. They follow us everywhere when we move inside the monastery," he said. Father Bini said there was concern that special units of the Israeli army were stationed inside the Casa Nova. Supplies of food and water have now run out. The body of 23 year-old Khaled Syam, shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to put out a fire in an office of the Franciscan monastery on Monday, is still lying in the compound. Fr Faltas said it was not possible to provide adequate care for another gravely wounded Palestinian in the church.

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