Bethlehem
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Unrest Puts Heavy Damper on Bethlehem Christmas Festivities

Near the church in Bethlehem's Manger Square, built over the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, tour guides pace back and forth, waiting in vain for tourist buses that fail to show.

Hisham Khamis, a guide for 10 years, stands forlorn under a huge Christmas tree decorated in the black, white, red and green colors of the Palestinian flag.

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Israeli Troops kill Palestinian in Bethlehem Camp

Israeli troops shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian during clashes Tuesday at a refugee camp in the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem, medics said.

Jihad al-Jafari was killed after Israeli troops entered the Dheishe camp before dawn, sparking clashes with stone-throwing locals, according to medics and witnesses.

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Christmas Pilgrims Gather in Bethlehem after Hard Year

Pilgrims from across the world descended on Jesus's birthplace in Bethlehem Wednesday to begin the global celebration of Christmas after a violence-plagued year brought suffering to many Middle Eastern Christians.

The not-so-little West Bank town was bustling with activity ahead of the biggest night of the year which will culminate in midnight mass at the Nativity Church built over the spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

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Al-Rahi Meets Abbas, Says 'No One Accepts to Give Up the Land despite All Tyranny'

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held talks Sunday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who awarded him the Star of Jerusalem, a high-ranking Palestinian medal.

According to Lebanon's state-run National News Agency, the meeting was also attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, top peace negotiator Saeb Erakat and former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah.

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Faith by Numbers: Christians in the Holy Land

Here is a breakdown of the main Christian communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, global head of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Israel

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Israel Troops Arrest 13 Palestinians in Tense West Bank

The Israeli army said on Sunday that troops had arrested 13 wanted Palestinians overnight as tension remained high in the occupied West Bank.

All were wanted for "illegal activities", a military spokeswoman said, indicating they were picked up in the southern cities of Hebron and Bethlehem, as well as in two villages north of Ramallah. 

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Al-Rahi to Travel with Pope Francis to Holy Land in May

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will travel to the Holly Land next month along with the delegation accompanying Pope Francis, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Bishop Boulos Sayyah, who will be accompanying al-Rahi in his trip, told the newspaper that the Patriarch will be within the delegation traveling with the Pontiff.

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Pope's Mideast Visit has 'Political Dimension'

Pope Francis's visit to the Middle East in May will inevitably have a "political dimension" and there are high expectations also among the Muslim population, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem said on Wednesday.

Fouad Twal said in an interview with I.Media, a news agency specialized in Vatican affairs, that he hoped the visit would also help develop closer relations between local Catholic and Orthodox communities.

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Pope Announces First Visit to Holy Land, May 24-26

Pope Francis said Sunday he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, visiting Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26.

"In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land," Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter's Square for the traditional Angelus prayer.

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Jerusalem Locked down by Fiercest Snowstorm in Years

The hilltop city of Jerusalem was paralyzed on Friday by its fiercest snowstorm in years, with its mayor calling out the army to help stranded motorists.

"We are battling a storm of rare ferocity," Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement as snow in the Holy City piled up to around 37 centimeters (15 inches), while outlying areas had much deeper drifts.

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