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Palestinians Celebrate Christmas Amidst Tension

Members of a Palestinian marching band parade during Christmas celebrations outside the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, on Christmas Eve, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian scouts played the drums and bagpipes during Christmas celebrations in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, but this year, tourists have kept away.

Ongoing protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip against US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s  capital have been met with tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces.

In a Christmas message on Monday, Pope Francis called for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hundreds of Palestinians and tourists gathered in Bethlehem’s Manger Square as temperatures dropped, to watch the annual scout parade under Christmas lights and decorated trees.

They took pictures as a marching band made its way through the square towards the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where it is believed Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Bethlehem, normally brimming with tourists at this time of year, has been almost empty of visitors due to the ongoing confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the wake of the US decision.

Since Trump’s announcement, at least 15 people have been

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity

killed across the occupied Palestinian territories, more than 2,900 people injured and more than 500 jailed.

People attend Christmas celebrations outside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 24, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad – RC11756BAA10

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