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Israel bars Gaza Christians from Bethlehem at Christmas

CHRISTIANS from Gaza have been banned from the historic town of Bethlehem at Christmas after Israeli authorities refused to issue them permits to visit the West Bank.

The Palestinian Information Centre reported that all Christians who applied for permission to participate in Christmas celebrations or visit relatives in the occupied territories had been refused entry, except those aged over 55.

According to statistics that numbers are dwindling with around 730 Christians living in the Gaza Strip, mainly belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Bethlehem is a centre for Christians who come from across the world to celebrate Christmas. 

Festivities are usually marked with marching Palestinian bands, concerts and the coming of the Latin Patriarch, a yearly ritual where he makes his pilgrimage from Jerusalem al Quds to Bethlehem to conduct prayers in the Church of Nativity.

The restriction of the movement of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories by the Israeli affects movement between West Bank and Gaza. 

Under the permanent closure policy, residents of Gaza require a personal exit permit to travel within Israel or the West Bank.
 

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