The Washington Post reports that “scores of Palestinian gunmen were hiding inside one of Christianity’s holiest shrines — Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity — on Wednesday, seeking refuge from Israeli troops that invaded the city as part of an offensive aimed at crushing Palestinian militias in the West Bank.”
[…] At the Church of the Nativity — built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus — priests were forced to give refuge to Palestinian police and militiamen, who, according to witnesses, shot their way in on Tuesday after running battles with Israeli troops firing from helicopter gunships and from tank-mounted machine guns.
[…] Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the gunmen ‘abuse churches and holy sites in Bethlehem as a refuge and as a place from which they can conduct their attacks on our forces.’
Israeli forces have entered Bethlehem several times during the past 18 months of fighting, but they are under orders not to harm holy places, and they have kept their distance from the church.
[…] Among the four Palestinians killed in the camp was a 27-year-old nurse and Ziad Amer, local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah group. ‘We will not surrender,’ Amer said in a phone interview just before his death. ‘We will fight until victory or death.’
Enjoy your raisins, Ziad.
[…] On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed publicly for the first time that diplomats fly Arafat into exile. Sharon noted that such a move would require Cabinet approval, but Arafat swiftly rejected the offer, saying he would rather be a ‘martyr’ than leave.
‘Is it his (Sharon’s) homeland or ours?’ Arafat said in an interview Tuesday night with the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera.
Arafat also criticized Israel’s Bethlehem incursion: ‘Today they attacked Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Can you imagine? They are striking the church of the Virgin Mary.’
There’s a surprise, huh? The Palestinians shoot their way in to the Church of the Nativity, and Arafat blames Israeli soldiers — who, as the Post notes, are “under orders not to harm holy places” and are keeping their distance from the holy sites — for the attack. Unbelievable!
Unless, of course, you’re the Pope: ABC News reported this morning that the Pope is calling on Israel to end its terror against the Palestinians, and to end its offensive against the Bethlehem holy sites.
Perhaps rather than rounding up armed potential suicide bombers, Israeli soldiers should just…what? fondle them instead? Rumor has it the Pope is more forgiving of such things — or at least, he’s less likely to launch into lectures about their impropriety.*
Or, I know! — howsabout some exorcisms, Pontiff? A bunch of well-placed exorcisms ought to convince an entire culture reared on hate and entitlement and the religious legitimacy of suicide bombings to cease blowing themselves up in shopping malls, no…?
But enough sermonizing:
[…] Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the offensive would last about three to four weeks, the first senior Israeli official to give a timeframe. However, Sharon has said the campaign was open-ended.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Israel should end the campaign quickly. But he suggested the United States would not insist on an immediate Israeli withdrawal. ‘I would guess it will take them (the Israelis) a couple of weeks’ to conclude the mission, Powell said on NBC’s ‘Today’ show.
As well he should; because Israel’s incursions appear to be netting them a cache of damning evidence against Arafat and the Palestinian Authority — including what Israelis point out is an invoice for bomb parts.
[…]Late Tuesday, Israeli soldiers foiled a suicide bombing on the edge of the West Bank by shooting at explosives strapped to the attacker’s chest, detonating the bomb and killing the man before he could get close enough to harm others.
The bombing was the seventh such attack in about a week. On Monday night, a 22-year-old Palestinian man blew himself up after police stopped his car in downtown Jerusalem. A policeman also died in the attack.
*[FOXNews reports that the Pope has likewise suggested to the Palestinians that they stop blowing shit up, too. Good for him. ‘Cause equivalency has worked really well up to this point.]