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End in Sight at Church of Nativity

Aired May 8, 2002 - 00:00   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.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Catherine Callaway in Atlanta. And we're interrupting CROSSFIRE to bring you a development in the situation in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity. There has been some movement there.

Let's go right to CNN's Walt Rodgers and find out what's going on there. Walt, can you hear me? This is Catherine. Walt?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Catherine. I can hear you. The Palestinian negotiators went into the church. We're told the release is imminent of all but 13 of the 123 people inside the church. The standoff has been going on over five weeks now. It has been tedious and torturous.

But as I say, if my cameraman will pan behind me, you can see the Church of the Nativity. The Israelis had it all lighted at this point. You can see the blue police barricades, through which those inside the church will pass. They will also pass through two metal detectors. And then 85 of them will pass into freedom after 37, I believe now, 38 days inside that church.

26 of those who come out will be going to Gaza. These are men wanted by the Israelis, although they are not considered prime fugitives. Thus the Israelis agreed to allow them to return them to Gaza, which is Palestinian-controlled territory. 13, however, are staying inside the church. Those 13 are considered the most wanted by Israel. They are men accused of dispatching suicide bombers and also accused of, in some cases, making the bombs. It will begin any minute now, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, Walt. I know you have been covering this story for us, and will be with us throughout the evening as the developments continue on this. Also know that Wolf Blitzer is there in Jerusalem, who can give us even more information on this developing story.

Wolf, finally an end to this siege, which has been going on now for five weeks.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: An end for almost everyone, as Walter just said, except for those 13 people that the Israelis described as senior terrorists, who are looking for a place to be exiled. Apparently, they still have not reached a final agreement on that, Catherine. But it does look like the others inside will be leaving very, shortly. We have now spoken to a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, as well as one of the priests inside the church. Both saying there is an agreement. They expect it to be implemented momentarily. What will happen is that the others inside, including those that the Israelis say are terrorists, who will be transferred to Gaza, where they will remain under police custody there, will be leaving.

They'll be going through metal detectors. They'll be walking out. They'll be presumably buses there, that will be taking them. This is expected to begin very, soon. Although until we see actual movement there, obviously, it hasn't begun yet. But from an Israeli spokesman, as well as from a priest inside, we are being told it looks like everyone, with the exception of those 13, will be exiled to some other location, will be leaving very, soon.

Catherine?

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you. Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. And when we continue, we're going to go back to CROSSFIRE now. We'll have more on this story coming up on "Live from Jerusalem" with Wolf Blitzer coming up at the bottom of the hour. Back to CROSSFIRE now.

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