Group Plans to Stay in Solidarity with Palestinians Until Israeli Military Siege is Over
At about 6pm Thursday (Palestine time), a group of 24 international activists slipped past Israeli Defense Force roadblocks to enter Bethlehem’s Manger Square. Running across the square, 11 were then able to enter the besieged Church of the Nativity through service doors to deliver food to the 160+ Palestinians who have been trapped in the church for almost a month. IDF troops caught and detained the other 13 activists.
“We took them completely by surprise,” says Kristen Schurr, of New York City, who adds that she did not notice any shots fired at the group. One LA Times journalist also entered the church with the activists, who include Swedish, UK, Irish nationals, and US.
Schurr says the activists wanted to enter the church to deliver food to the trapped Palestinians, many of whom are sick and starving. They also wanted to call international attention to the fact that, while the Israeli government has restored some freedom of movement to Palestinian Authority President Yassir Arafat, the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity continues. She said the activists plan to remain in the church – one of the oldest and most important Christian shrines – until the Palestinians are allowed to leave without being arrested.
The effects of fierce fighting at the church were apparent when the activists entered, Schurr says. Fires are still burning, and the dead bodies of two Palestinians, killed by IDF gunfire this morning, remain in the church. However, the trapped Palestinians cheered the internationals when they entered. “People were excited, and happy to see us,” says Schurr.
“When we got in we were given blankets and all the food and water are being equally shared,” said Coloradan Larry Hales. “Unfortunately the situation inside is much worse than we anticipated. Most of the people are literally starving, having not eaten anything in the last five days, except for a few boiled leaves from a tree in the courtyard.” Hales called upon Americans to pressure politicians and Catholic church leaders and call upon them to get food, medicine into the Church of Nativity.
The International Solidarity Movement is a Palestinian-based organization dedicated to non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. Founded two years ago, it encourages international peace activists to come to Palestine to provide non-violent support to the Palestinian resistance.
The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People
64 Star Street, P.O.Box 24
Beit Sahour – Palestine
The center is a non-profit making NGO, started in 1988 during the first Intifada.
PCR runs community service programs, youth empowerment and training programs.
PCR is also very much involved in the non-violent resistance against the Israeli Occupation to Palestine.