Israel to Ease Palestinian Travel Over Christmas Season

Hundreds of Christians living in the the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be allowed to travel between Palestinian territories and visit Israel, Defense Ministry says.

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Visitors light candles inside the Church of the Nativity during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 3, 2016.
Visitors light candles inside the Church of the Nativity during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 3, 2016. Credit: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma

Israel will ease restrictions on Palestinian travel for the Christmas season,  the Defense Ministry unit in charge of policy in occupied territory said on Thursday.

According to the ministry, Christian Palestinians will be allowed into Israel and about 400 will be able to travel abroad via Ben-Gurion International Airport.

In addition, about 100 Christians with relatives in the Gaza Strip would be able to visit the Hamas-controlled enclave, while 700 Palestinian Christians from Gaza will be permitted to visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli statement said.

Israel often eases its ban on Palestinian travel via Israel during the holidays, except during periods of violent confrontations and attacks.

Bethlehem, the West Bank city where Christian tradition says Jesus was born, is also a favorite Christmas pilgrimage site for overseas tourists. Palestinians held their annual holiday launch ceremony in Manger Square on Saturday, switching the lights on a 15-meter-high tree, followed by fireworks.

Palestinian Christians celebrate the annual lighting of a Christmas tree in Manger Square on December 3, 2016 in the biblical West Bank town of BethlehemCredit: MUSA AL SHAER/AFP

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