Armed Palestinians holed up in Jesus' birthplace
About 120 Palestinian men shot their way into Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity yesterday, and are still holed up there with the town's Palestinian governor, Mohammed Madani. Elia Melinkovicz, a Greek Orthodox priest from Yugoslavia, said the clergymen in charge of the church have repeatedly asked the Palestinians to leave. "We told them it's forbidden to enter the church with weapons," he told the Associated Press.

Israeli soldiers have the church surrounded, and a tank sits at the edge of Manger Square, but they are under strict orders not to harm holy places. But that's isn't being strictly followed. "Many churches were fired upon," Raed Awad, secretary to the Roman Catholic patriarch in Jerusalem, told the Australian press. "A Lutheran church was hit and a shell entered the office of the pastor." Hospital sources also said the Israeli military shot at least two churches, killing a priest and wounding seven nuns. (This priest was apparently not Jacques Amateis, who was earlier reported dead but isn't.)

Bullets aren't the only weapons in this battle, reports the AFP news agency. After taking over three Palestinian television stations in Ramallah, Israeli troops reportedly began broadcasting pornographic films on them. "I am furious," a 52-year-old mother of three said. "These are the people who are shooting at us that also play this disgusting trick on us." Luckily, she added, half of the town is without electricity. An Israeli army spokesman denied the report.

This story continues to develop, and reports are sketchy and difficult to confirm (as is evident from the Amateis story). Since we won't update until tomorrow morning, check out Yahoo's full coverage, DebkaFile, and other ...

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