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Monk Wounded at Bethlehem Church

April 10, 2002

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) _ An Armenian Orthodox monk was shot and seriously wounded Wednesday at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity compound. The Israeli army and Palestinians each blamed the other for the shooting.

The monk, identified as Armin Sinanian, 22, was undergoing surgery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, where spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy said he was in serious condition.

A Palestinian policeman, one of more than 200 armed Palestinians who remained holed up in the basilica built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born, said by telephone that Israeli troops shot a monk after breaking open a door. The policeman refused to give his name. It was not immediately clear whether the door led into the compound or into the Church of the Nativity itself.

The policeman, who refused to give his name, said the monk’s blood still stained the stone floor near the spot where he had been hanging clothes out to dry.

Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said shots were fired at troops as they made a delivery of food intended for the 60 priests and nuns inside the church compound. He said Palestinians opened fire, hitting the monk. Israeli soldiers, he added, did not return fire.

Israeli forces treated the monk and took him to Hadassah Hospital, Dallal said.

Israeli troops have surrounded the church, where Palestinian gunmen have been holed up for more than a week.

An Israeli tank remained outside the compound and a white balloon with surveillance cameras floated above, anchored to Manger Square by ropes. An army tent was set up next to St. Catherine’s Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity.

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