5 April 2002

The Negotiations in the Nativity Church area
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

The IDF secured the release of four clergymen today from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The IDF transported the four, at their request, to Jerusalem, where they arrived safe and sound.

It was clear from their testimony that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has been forcibly seized by a group of armed terrorists who have taken hostages, among them members of the clergy, inside the church building.

According to a reliable source, those occupying the church complex include various PA officials, such as Governor Muhamad Al-Maadani, Abdallah Daud, Head of the General Intelligence Service, and Majdi Al-Matri, Commander of the Preventive Security Service. In addition some of the "most wanted" Palestinians terror suspects have also taken refuge in the church.

Throughout the night, negotiations between the IDF and the armed Palestinian suspects inside the church complex continued. In the course of these negotiations, the IDF repeatedly demanded the peaceful surrender of the suspects and concomitantly offered to facilitate the immediate evacuation of any wounded persons located in the church.

However, for their part, the Palestinian terrorists rejected the offer and prevented civilians from leaving the church. In light of the terrorists’ actions, the IDF was forced to view these circumstances as a hostage scenario. The IDF is working diligently to ensure a prompt and satisfactory conclusion to this incident.