Update on child hostages

 Jerusalem, 28 August 2001, 11:12 PM. This morning, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) lost once more, and in the clearest way, the right to carry any longer their name. Instead of "Defence Forces", they turned themselves into "Attacking Forces". The horrifying story, which is happening today in the small town of Beit Jala (near Bethlehem), is really something never heard about before. The Israeli Defence Forces invaded the Palestinian controlled area of Beit Jala, which is totally against what is left of the Oslo agreements. While doing so, they occupied the premises of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and orphanage in Beit Jala. On these premises they positioned their snipers and tanks to shoot at the Palestinian freedom fighters. It is normal in any kind of warfare to take a building from where to attack the enemy, but in this case the horrible part of it, is that there are 50 orphaned children, aged between four and 18, present in the building. The Israeli refused to let the children go, using them as human shields to protect their snipers, machineguns and tanks. The Lutheran Pastors were able today to bring some food to the 50 kids but not to take them away with them. This is incredible, but this is what is happening right now in the small town of Beit Jala. The children are right under the crossfire, used by the IDF as human shield, knowing that the Palestinians could not retaliate to the IDF shooting, knowing that the children are there. This, and the fact that the IDF are using a "Holy Place", a Church, to carry out their bloodshedding, are quite unprecedented in this conflict. The Israeli government of Mister Sharon ignored the basic rules of military warfare: "Never use civilians, and specially children". This is taught in any army of the world. But this is not any army, this is the Israeli Army. Since the beginning of the new Intifada, the IDF have been killing so many children that one can rightly ask whether the officers who give such orders and the soldiers who carry them out have not lost their mind and soul. How can a human being, safely hidden in a tank, shoot at a stone-throwing child? What threat does it represent to him ? How can an adult in full military garb use a child to protect himself ? This is the horrific truth about this bloody conflict. While writing these lines, the 50 children of Beit Jala Orphanage are scared to death. They, who have already experienced the loss of their Parents, are now inflicted with this new trauma. The curfew has been imposed on Beit Jala, no cars are allowed to go through, nobody can go and see the children without risking to be a "legitimate target", as the IDF put it, i.e. to be killed without warning. Tonight I pray for these children and for those few still looking after them. I pray also for the IDF members, that they may come to realise the horror of their actions, and may assure the safety of those children. Finally I ask you to pray with us for peace in the "Holy Land", and to take any action, which can help to save the Orphan Children of Beit Jala.

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