Israeli Soldiers Fire Warning Shots at Catholic Bishop

Ignoring Diplomatic Liscence Plates

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JERUSALEM, JAN 10, 2001 ( Israeli soldiers guarding a roadblock opened fire on the car of a Catholic Bishop travelling from Nazareth into Palestinian territory to meet with a sick priest.

On January 9, Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Nazareth, set off on his journey, accompanied by Fr. Elie Kurzum, his secretary, and Fr. Elias Odeh, a parish priest. Upon arrival at a checkpoint, Fr. Kurzum, who was driving, noted that there was no stop sign, and proceeded to move through the checkpoint. Suddenly two soldiers came out and aimed their guns at the car. When Fr. Kurzum tried to explain the situation, one soldier shouted back, «Go away or I´ll put a bullet in your head!» Afterwards, the soldiers fired three shots: one above the car and two others in the direction of the car, which was not hit.

The car was a diplomatic vehicle from the Patriarchate, bearing the Vatican flag on the fender and diplomatic liscence plates. With the shots, Fr. Kursum immediately turned the car around to return to a nearby military base and make a report.

There a commander apologized for the attack and escorted the car back to the checkpoint, telling the soldiers that the bishop would be returning by that path within an hour. Despite the commanders words, when the bishop returned, the soldiers again began to aim their guns. Rather than press the issue, the three priests returned to Nazareth by a more circuitous route.

Fr. Raed Abusahlia, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, noted that the incident violates the right of freedom of movement, both for ordinary Palestinians, and even diplomats. «If this happens now with such a high-ranking personality, what could happen every day and night to our simple common people?»

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