Fire Breaks Out in Besieged Basilica

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, APRIL 17, 2002 ( A blaze triggered by Israeli-Palestinian gunfire broke out late Tuesday in the monastery of the Greek-Orthodox community at the besieged Basilica of the Nativity.

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The more than 30 Franciscans confined in the basilica explained in a message sent by their superiors to ZENIT that the fire is one more proof of the instability caused by the invasion of armed Palestinians and the Israeli military siege.

The basilica has been under siege by the Israeli army since April 2, after armed Palestinians invaded it.

“One or two rooms of our convent went up in flames in last night´s fire, a serious gesture that affects the Nativity Church, a holy site,” said Archbishop Aristarchos, secretary-general of the Greek-Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, told the Misna missionary agency.

He added: “Israelis, Palestinians and all Christians must concentrate all necessary efforts to find a peaceful solution; we must promptly unblock this situation of extreme uncertainty.”

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