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610 Gaza Christians travel to West Bank for Christmas celebrations

Dec. 24, 2013 12:28 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 25, 2013 11:57 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Christian residents of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday left to the West Bank where they will participate in Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, Palestinian sources said.

Officials in the Palestinian liaison department told Ma'an that Israel allowed 610 Gaza Christians to travel to the West Bank to join Christmas celebrations.

Two-week permits were given to young people under 16 and adults over 35 years old.

Public information officer of the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City Kamil Ayyad told Ma'an that Christmas celebrations in the Gaza Strip are "restricted to religious rites."

He highlighted that previously, a Christmas tree used to be lit every year at the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City.

"Now adays, we celebrate inside the church only due to the siege and the dire economic and political conditions."

Around 1,500 of the Gaza Strip's 1.7 million residents are Christians, while the rest are Muslim. Christians make up around 10% of the worldwide Palestinian population more broadly.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. The blockade includes severe restrictions on the movement of Gazans as well as imports and exports.
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