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Christians leave Gaza for Bethlehem

More than 500 members of the Gaza Strip's tiny Christian community have left the blockaded territory to take part in Christmas celebrations in Jesus' traditional birthplace of Bethlehem.

The Israeli military co-ordinated the rare passage to the West Bank on Thursday ahead of the holiday.

About 3,500 Christians live in Gaza among 1.5 million Muslims.

Relations have traditionally been good, though there has been sporadic violence against Christians since the Islamic Hamas movement wrestled control of the strip three years ago.

In the wake of the takeover, unidentified attackers detonated a bomb outside a Christian school, firebombed a Christian bookshop and killed a Christian who worked at one.

Hamas says it is committed to protecting the Christian minority.


From Belfast Telegraph