BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Middle East
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 10 May, 2002, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Timeline: Bethlehem siege
A diary of the main events during the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem which ended on 10 May after more than five weeks.

2 April: Israeli tanks move into Bethlehem as part of a series of raids on West Bank cities. Local civilians and Palestinian militants alike seek refuge in churches throughout the city, including the Church of the Nativity.

4 April: Church warden Father Ibrahim Faltas says a battle is raging between Palestinians and Israelis inside the church compound and the lives of those inside are in danger.

A negotiator signals to those inside the church to be let in
Negotiators have been looking for a breakthrough
7 April: Pope John Paul II offers personal prayers for the Catholic and Orthodox monks and nuns trapped in the church.

8 April: Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls issues Israel a stern warning to respect religious sites and says the Holy See is following the events with "extreme apprehension".

10 April: An Armenian monk is shot and seriously wounded. Israeli troops admit responsibility, but say the man looked as if he was armed.

12 April: The Franciscan Order asks Israel to let all those inside the church go free.

13 April:The Israelis set up cranes outside the compound for snipers and observers.

17 April: Two Japanese tourists inadvertently wander into the war zone after travelling without access to media for six months. They are promptly rescued by journalists.

20 April: The Greek Orthodox Church calls for international intervention to end the siege and says it holds Israel responsible.

Japanese tourists Yuji Makano and Mina Takahashi
Two Japanese tourists inadvertently wandered into the war zone
21 April: Father Ibrahim Faltas says food has run out in the church, but the Israelis say they are still supplying those inside via Red Cross workers given access to the compound.

Five Palestinians escape from the church using ladders left against the walls of the compound by Israeli soldiers, raising suspicions that they might be Israeli collaborators.

23 April: Negotiations to end the conflict begin in the Peace Centre near the compound.

Israeli troops shoot and wound a man they say is on their list of armed militants, before evacuating him to hospital in Jerusalem. Two other Palestinians who have fallen ill are also evacuated.

24 April: Local church leaders call for the removal of the corpses of two Muslims killed in previous weeks and left to decompose.

25 April: Nine youths leave the church.

29 April: One Palestinian shot dead by an Israeli sniper in the church's courtyard.

30 April: Twenty-six Palestinians leave the church, but none are believed to be from a group of militants who took refuge there.

1 May: Fire breaks out in a church dormitory after Israeli flares are fired during the night. Israel accuses besieged Palestinians of arson, but later reviews video footage of the fire.

Peace activists outside the Church of the Nativity - 2 May
The peace group sneaked in before the army could stop them
2 May: About a dozen international peace activists dash into the church under the Israeli guns, delivering supplies. They tell harrowing stories of conditions inside.

A Palestinian security force member is shot dead during an exchange of fire.

3 May: Four Palestinian policemen, weakened by lack of food, emerge from the church and are taken into Israeli custody.

4 May: There are reports of an imminent breakthrough in negotiations which appear to follow on from the accord which ended the siege of Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound a week earlier.

5 May: Orthodox Easter dawns without hoped-for breakthrough, but the army allows a traditional lamp carrying ceremony between Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem to go ahead.

6 May: Details of a possible deal emerge, but despite hopes of a resolution early on, the day passes amid intensive talks and final details are agreed only the next morning.

7 May: A plan to end the siege by exiling 13 militants to Italy is scuppered after Italy refuses to take the wanted men.

8 May: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree that 13 militants will temporarily remain in the church, while 26 will be taken to Gaza under guard and the civilians will be allowed to go free.

9 May: The departure of Palestinians from inside the church is held up after the militants who were due to stay behind demand the presence of an European Union monitor to guarantee their safety.

Cyprus says it is willing to give temporary sanctuary to the 13 Palestinian militants, while their final place of exile is decided.

10 May: Siege comes to an end with all Palestinians leaving the Church.

Among them were 39 militants, including the 13 on Israel's most-wanted list.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Church with a turbulent history
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories