Thousands Flock to Bethlehem to Mark ChristmasWorld | December 24, 2012, Monday // 19:33| views
A Christian girl sits near the Altar of the Nativity, believed to be the place where the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, inside the Grotto at the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, on December 24. Photo by AFP
Thousands of Palestinians and tourists streamed into the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday to mark Christmas in the "little town" where many believe Jesus Christ was born.
This year's celebration carries special significance for many Palestinians - last month the United Nations granted them the status of non-member observer state, and earlier this year they won their first UNESCO World Heritage Site designation -- for Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
The designation also included part of a pilgrimage route in Bethlehem, along which the traditional Christmas procession headed by the Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal marched on Monday.
Thousands of tourists and Palestinians -- Muslims and Christians alike -- lined the route on the unusually warm December day to welcome the procession.
At midnight, Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Middle East, will deliver the traditional mass to the faithful, with officials including Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, prime minister Salam Fayyad and Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh expected to be in attendance.
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