Bethlehem: church siege continues

 The siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has now entered its second week, with both sides refusing to back down. More than 200 people including alleged Palestinian militants, priests and religious remain barricaded inside the building. The Israeli army has been using loudspeakers to call on Palestinians inside the church to lay down their arms and come 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 inside the compound. The Israeli army will not let the Franciscans take him out. More than 24 hours after the death, the body is beginning to show signs of decomposition and his distressed family are anxious to bury him. A spokesman for the monks said this was causing a sanitary problem. Israeli troops have also refused to let food and water supplies into the monastery. Fr David Jaeger, speaking from Custody offices in Jerusalem, told Fides news agency: "the only ray of hope for the besieged Friars comes from the words of the Pope and initiatives by the Holy See like the mission of Archbishop Tauran. We hope that the national leaders will let themselves be guided by God."

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