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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 December 2004, 04:50 GMT
In pictures: Christmas in Bethlehem

Israeli border guard

Israel relaxed its restrictions on movement in the West Bank to allow thousands of Palestinians to attend Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem.

Palestinian children in Bethlehem

Palestinian children in Santa Claus outfits look out for the annual Christmas parade.

Christmas procession

Bagpipes accompanied the procession, watched over by a portrait of veteran Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who died in November.

Nuns in Bethlehem

Arafat's death may have led to hopes that new Palestinian leaders could bring about peace in the region, but Israeli forces have not let down their guard.

Palestinian boy with balloons

A Palestinian boy offers a flock of festive balloons for sale. Bethlehem businesses say Christmas tourism has yet to return to previous highs.

Michel Sabbah with idol of the baby Jesus

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem carries a figure of the baby Jesus through St Catherine's church in Manger Square.

Mahmoud Abbas and Michel Sabbah

After midnight mass, the patriarch hosts Palestinian leadership favourite Mahmoud Abbas at a Christmas dinner.


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