Fire, First Death Reported at Bethlehem Church

Fire, First Death Reported at Bethlehem Church

The standoff at The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem intensified yesterday, claiming the life of one Palestinian policeman, according to reports in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. In addition, two Israeli soldiers were wounded and a section of the church was badly burnt.

According to the Washington Post, the Franciscan order in Rome said a historic and valuable glass window of the basilica, and an ancient mosaic in the Armenian area of the complex, were ruined in the battle.

Accounts from inside Bethlehem are conflicting: Israeli military officials said Palestinian snipers shot two Israeli border policemen standing guard on a rooftop outside the compound, "provoking an exchange of gunshots and grenades that caused the fire." But Palestinian leaders and some priests said Israelis launched a sneak attack over a rooftop and set the fire themselves.

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