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Israelis Allegedly Open Fire on a Church in Bethlehem

Aired April 16, 2002 - 13:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's get back to Bethlehem right now and talk more about the firing that has taken place over the past 30 minutes' time.

Salah Tamari is a Palestinian legislator. He joins us by telephone now. He lives in the town of Bethlehem.

Sir, what happened with the shooting that's been reported?

SALAH TAMARI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: Well something like 35 minutes ago to 40 minutes, the Israelis opened fire on the church from all directions, accompanied by night flares. It was unprovoked. At one of the rooms -- one of the upper rooms in the -- in the compound caught fire. And this is the second room that caught fire in the compound. And it lasted for about 30 minutes.

HEMMER: Yes, were there shots returned from inside the church?

TAMARI: Definitely not. No. I can assure you there -- the Palestinians defeat (ph) inside the church did not return fire.

HEMMER: Yes.

Sir, how far away are you from the church? And did you see the actual shooting?

TAMARI: I am in a position to convey what is going on. I have direct contact with the priests in the church as well as the Palestinians besieged in the church. So I am in a position...

HEMMER: Yes.

TAMARI: Yes.

HEMMER: How much damage has been done to the church based on the reports you're getting?

TAMARI: So far one of the rooms caught on fire. The -- what is the -- left from previous shooting of the windows was damaged -- was damaged tonight. It's very difficult to assess the damage because the -- what has (ph) the -- all the Palestinians besieged inside the church, they cannot move freely without endangering their lives because of the Israeli snipers who occupy the roofs (UNINTELLIGIBLE). HEMMER: Right, but you have not seen the latest exchange of gunfire, is that right? You have not personally seen that, is that correct?

TAMARI: It was not an exchange of gunfire. I saw -- I saw the -- some of the fire from where I am because it's a hilly area. I can see it.

HEMMER: OK.

TAMARI: But I cannot -- there was no exchange of fire. I assure you there was no exchange of fire.

HEMMER: OK, Salah Tamari, Palestinian legislator from the town of Bethlehem, we'll continue to track that again.

It's growing late here in the evening. It has not been unusual to hear shots being fired in and around Manger Square. In fact, for the past 16 days running, almost on a daily occurrence we have seen some sort of activity, and again, we have it tonight.

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