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Posted: 5/1/2002 5:19:30 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/1/2002 5:43:43 PM EDT by Benjamin0001]
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity was on fire early Thursday during a fierce exchange of gunfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen holed up inside. Flames leaped out of three rooms in the Orthodox Christian and Franciscan section of the large compound. Three people were slightly burned trying to put out the fire, according to Palestinians inside communicating by telephone. The blaze was about 50 feet from the 4th-century basilica itself, built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus. It was not known if any of the nearly 200 people who are in the building were staying where the fire erupted. FNC Israeli forces have been surrounding the church since April 2, when more than 200 Palestinians, including gunmen, took refuge inside as Israeli troops invaded. It was not clear what started the shooting or the fire. There was no immediate word of further casualties. About 30 people have left the church in the last several days, according to agreements between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. However, there is still a standoff on the main issue, the fate of the gunmen. Israel insists they must either surrender or accept exile, while the Palestinians are prepared only to take them to the Gaza Strip [url]http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,51678,00.html[/url]
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