Dear Pax Christi USA members and friends,

Dennis Warner of Pax Christi-Metro DC is currently in Palestine as an
official representative of Pax Christi USA, reporting for the Catholic
Peace-Voice, Pax Christi USA's quarterly newspaper.  While serving as a
legal observer with the International Solidarity Movement, Dennis will be
sending back regular reports from that violence-torn region.  We will be
sending his reports out over PCUSA's Rapid Response Network, as well as
posting them on the Pax Christi USA website (reports on the website should
be available some time on Friday, May 3).  We encourage you to share these
reports as widely as possible, particularly with media outlets in your area
and other groups interested in the unfolding situation in the Middle East.

We will also supplement his reports with action suggestions for individuals
and groups for them to consider.  PCUSA statements and some action ideas are
already available on the website, www.paxchristiusa.org

Peace be with you!

Johnny Zokovitch, Communications Director
Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement
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Thursday, May 2, 2002 – 6:46am
Jerusalem

This morning the blockade of the Presidential Compound in Ramallah was
lifted and the people inside, including Yasser Arafat, were free to leave.

At the same time, there was a firefight at the Church of the Nativity in
Bethlehem last night.  Because the siege of the church and the town
continues, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) will be conducting a
direct action at the church this afternoon.  In about 30 minutes I will
travel with around 15 volunteers to Bethlehem to participate in this action.
The purpose of the action is to deliver some badly needed food supplies to
the monks and Palestinians barricaded inside the church and to put several,
perhaps 4 or 5, international volunteers inside the church.  The people in
the church have had little or no food for the past 10 days.  They also have
no water or electricity.

The presence of internationals in the church is believed to provide a
measure of protection to the Palestinians taking refuge there.  Experience
has shown that when internationals are present, the level of violence, human
rights abuses and general danger decreases.  ISM wants to place several
international volunteers in the church to reduce the risk for the
Palestinians, and by implication all others being killed by Israeli snipers,
heavy weapons fire, or even a storming of the church by Israeli troops.

It should be said that not all peace activists agree with this particular
direct action.  I met today with Fr. Raed A. Abusahlia, the chancellor of
the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  You know, of course, that Monsignor
Michel Sabbah, the President of Pax Christi International, is the Latin
Patriarch.  Fr Raed believes that putting internationals into the Church of
the Nativity at this time will have the adverse effect of prolonging the
Israeli siege of the church.  He would prefer waiting a few days to see how
the current negotiations over the presence of the Israeli military in
Bethlehem turn out.  He would prefer that any direct action be limited to
the delivery of some food, rather than going on to putting internationals
into the church.  It is said that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are very
nervous at this time.

In any event, most observers of the situation say it is a time of great
uncertainty and few are willing to venture confident opinions on how things
will evolve.

I will be traveling with the ISM group and will act as a legal observer to
their action.  My task will be to observe the events associated with the
attempt at direct action and to note any violations of legal or human rights
should they occur.  The other members of the ISM group will attempt various
ways to pass the Israeli troops, barbed wire, fences and other blockages of
the route to deliver the food and enter the church.  They are an interesting
collection of people – mostly young (20-25) – mostly males (although three
young women and a man arrived from the UK last night to join the group).  In
general, they are passionate about the injustices inflicted upon the
Palestinians – and mostly driven by concerns for human rights rather than a
faith-based concern.

There is some risk on this action.  That includes arrest, incarceration and
deportation.  Those who are planning to enter the church have tried to
organize their personal property so that others can take care of it in the
event they are arrested and deported.  There is some risk of injury from the
soldiers, but most of the volunteers feel reasonably safe since little
violence has affected internationals in the past.

That's it.  I must go now.

Nakupenda.

Dennis B. Warner
Pax Christi USA
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Thursday, May 2, 2002 – 12:00pm
Bethlehem

The following was passed on to us from Dennis’s wife, Candy Warner.  Candy
wanted to share with us that Dennis was not one of the ISM volunteers who
had entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but was functioning as
a “legal observer” outside the church with the rest of the ISM team.

Dennis just called to report that 29 Internationals (from the International
Solidarity Movement) have been involved in getting food in to the monks and
Palestinians inside the Church of the Nativity.  In this surprise action, 10
members actually made it inside.  Thirteen more have been detained with one
arrested.  That group will probably be deported most likely.  No one was
hurt; no one was shot.

The army has been shooting at anyone appearing at the windows and deaths
from this are being reported.  Now there are internationals inside and that
will mean that the international community will put more pressure to resolve
the standoff before more are shot.

Dennis served as a "legal" observer of this event.  The LA Times was present
and they expect much to be made of this. The hope, of course, is that
through non-violence can come less loss of life.

Reported by Candy Warner after a phone call from her husband, Dennis B.
Warner of Pax Christi USA
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Thursday, May 2, 2002 – 10:30pm
Bethlehem

At 5:40 this afternoon, a group of international peace activists of the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM) successfully evaded Israeli military
patrols and entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  This was the
second time in four days that the ISM attempted to breach the Israeli
military siege of the church to bring sorely-needed food supplies to the
100+ people taking refuge in this holiest of Christian shrines.

On Monday, April 29, members of the ISM reached the door of the church
before they were forcefully pulled away before they could enter.  This
afternoon they not only reached the interior of the church with supplies of
rice, flour, salt and sweets but left ten of their party in the church to
share the confinement with the resident monks who oversee the operations of
the church and a large number of Palestinians who had fled to the church for
protection during the Israeli invasion a month ago.  A journalist for the
Los Angeles Times also joined with the group and remained in the church with
the ISM members.

On this second penetration of the military cordon around the church, a
primary purpose was to put international peace activists in the structure to
underscore to the international community the severity of the conditions
there and the illegality of the Israeli military occupation of the city of
Bethlehem.

The ten ISM activists included five Americans, one Briton, one Dane, one
Swede, one Irish and one Canadian.  Three of the ten are women.

The entry to the church began at 5:40pm when three ISM groups totaling 23
activists approached the structure from three directions.  Crossing Manger
Square at a steady but rapid walk, they reached the door of the church which
was briefly opened at their arrival.  The Israeli troops stationed around
the church and Manger Square appeared to be taken by surprise and were
unable to intercept the activists before they had successfully crossed the
square. Fortunately, no shots were fired and no tear gas or stun grenades
were used by the Israeli troops.

Thirteen ISM members remained outside the church where they were immediately
detained and arrested by the military.  This group included five Americans,
three Britons and 2 Swedes.  Three members of the detained group were women.
A number of mobile telephone calls by the detained activists indicated that
they were not mistreated but were being held by Israeli authorities for
questioning.  As of this report, no further word has been given of the fate
of the detainees.  ISM organizers believe that the detainees may face
deportation from Israel.

The ten ISM activists inside the church intend to remain until the military
siege is lifted.  Before beginning this action, ISM organizer, Ms. Huwaida
Arraf, one of the current detainees, expressed the hope that the presence of
international observers in the church will help deter the Israeli military
from firing into the structure.

Over the past several weeks, several Israeli assaults against the church
have been attempted.  The most recent attack occurred last night and
resulted in two fires in the church and, according to the mayor of
Bethlehem, one Palestinian killed and two wounded.

Following the breach of the military cordon, a group of ISM members who had
remained at the barricades compiled lists of activists in the church and in
Israeli military custody.  Names and passport numbers were reported to the
consulates and embassies of the countries from which the activists came.  In
addition, information was given to the score or more of international press
corps present at the scene.

This action occurred on the same day that the military siege of the
Presidential Compound at Ramallah was lifted.
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.

Dennis B. Warner, Pax Christi USA