Christian Patriarchs of Jerusalem Denounce Israeli Military Attacks

«Intolerable Situation» Seen in Bethlehem and Palestinian Territories

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JERUSALEM, OCT. 21, 2001 ( The patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches and communities here made an urgent appeal against what they called the «intolerable situation» in Bethlehem and the Palestinian territories occupied now by the Israeli army.

The statement of the religious leaders, published Friday, refers to «targeted killings,» as well as the occupation of cities belonging to the Palestinian Authority.

«Tanks are everywhere, buildings have been [be]sieged, some areas are under curfew, and there is extensive shooting,» the religious leaders said. They are particularly concerned about Bethlehem and the refugee camps. «Children everywhere are being traumatized,» they said.

«Whilst we deplore all acts of violence,» the religious leaders said, «we appeal to world church leaders and the international community to make urgent representation to the Israeli government to bring this intolerable situation to an immediate end and begin the process of negotiations in order to work toward a peaceful and just solution.»

Israeli troops are deployed in the principal Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they occupied in the past few days, following the greatest offensives initiated by the Palestinian Authority in the past year.

According to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, two women died Saturday (ages 22 and 48), victims of the attacks, as well as two youths (ages 16 and 19). On Saturday night, three missiles fired from helicopters fell on a residential neighborhood of Bethlehem, wounding at least eight people.

Sources of the Israeli Council of Ministers explained that the operation seeks to capture the killers of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, killed on Wednesday, and to «dismantle» the Palestinian «terrorist structures.»

According to these sources, Israel regards «the Palestinian Authority as an entity that supports terrorism and, therefore, acts in consequence.»

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