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Israeli forces suppress Christmas march in Bethlehem

Dec. 23, 2014 5:30 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2014 4:50 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday suppressed a peaceful march calling for "Christmas without occupation" in Bethlehem.

Demonstrators marched to the Israeli military checkpoint in northern Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas and hand out gifts to children in the area.

Marchers held up signs reading: "Jesus came with a message of: Peace, Freedom and Justice" and "We want Christmas without occupation."

Israeli forces prevented demonstrators, some of whom were dressed as Father Christmas, from reaching the checkpoint and fired tear gas at the crowd.

Several people were treated at the scene for tear gas inhalation.

Mazen al-Azza, an activist with the Palestinian National Initiative, told Ma'an that the march had a peaceful Christmas message, but "Israeli soldiers did not miss the chance to suppress it by assaulting journalists and peaceful demonstrators."

The ancient Palestinian city -- said to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ -- is now surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements on all sides.

Bethlehem is also cut off from Jerusalem, historically its twin city, by Israel's separation wall, which runs along the northern side of the city.

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