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IDF Arrests 10 Peace Activists In Nativity Church



BETHLEHEM — Today at 2:40 pm (ME time), the Israeli army stormed the Church of the Nativity and arrested ten international peace activists, after ending their 38-day siege on the holy site. The activists risked their lives to bring food, medical supplies, and the protection of their international status to the Palestinian citizens and clergy trapped inside the Church of the Nativity. They had been maintaining their vigil in the church for just over one week.

Earlier today, the Israeli army exiled 13 Palestinian men wanted by the Israeli government, and escorted 100 some other Palestinians to the Gaza Strip to be interrogated before being allowed to return home. All of the internationals have been detained in a Jerusalem prison. Yet none of them have been charged. The activists did not leave the church of their own choosing. They requested legal counsel and a guarantee from the Israeli army that they would not be arrested or deported. They received neither.

"Israel continues to try to remove any independent witness or humanitarian peace activists from helping or working with the Palestinian people. This is part of its effort to maintain global silence and total control over information on its unjust war on the Palestinian people," said Adam Shapiro, a coordinator with the International Solidarity Movement, which has organized groups of peace workers to travel to the West Bank. Shapiro is a doctor from Brooklyn who spent time inside Yasser Arafat’s compound.

When the internationals arrived in the Church of the Nativity just over a week ago, they brought rice, lentils, salt and other essential foodstuffs. The besieged Palestinians and clergy had eaten nothing but boiled grass and lemon leaves for three days prior to their arrival. One of the internationals, Mary Kelly, a trained nurse, was able to treat the injured and sick who had been denied access to medical treatment.

All 10 activists have joined the hunger strike that Seattle native Trevor Baumgartner and three other detained US citizens began a week ago. They are demanding to be able to leave Israel of their own free will, so they can continue their peace activism. Trevor is now on his 9th day without food. As of Thursday, Nathan Mauger and Thomas Koutsoukos have refused to take either water or food.

The list of the detained internationals is as follows:

1. Nauman Zaidi, USA
2. Robert O’Neill, USA
3. Larry Hales, USA
4. Kristen Schurr, USA
5. Alister Hillman, UK
6. Allan Lindgaard, Denmark
7. Stefan Coster, Sweden
8. Erik Alger, Sweden
9. Mary Kelly, Ireland
10. Jacqueline Soohen, Canada


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