A Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Palestinian hospital officials said troops fired a tank shell at a group of Palestinians between the Karni and Erez crossings with Israel, killing one young man and wounding three others.
Earlier, Israel's army said it had pulled back to the outskirts of Bethlehem to allow Christmas celebrations to proceed in the town.
The Israeli army said there would be no troops in Bethlehem during Christmas week as long as intelligence did not indicate attacks were planned against Israeli citizens. It said Christians with security permits living in Palestinian West Bank towns would be allowed into Bethlehem, as well as foreign tourists and pilgrims.
"We will make every effort to facilitate the celebrations. There is now no curfew on Bethlehem and we hope to keep it that way. We shall facilitate efforts to allow anybody to enter who wants to worship," the army said. "Where we need not be, we will not be."
However, Israel maintained its ban on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from making his Christmas Eve pilgrimage to Bethlehem for the second straight year.
Arafat, from his headquarters in the city of Ramallah blasted Israel Monday, demanding: "Is it fair that the whole world celebrates Christmas in freedom while our people in Palestine and Bethlehem are banned from celebrating Christmas?"
"Our message on Christmas Eve is a message of love, peace and forgiveness, of Israeli and Palestinian coexistence and respect for all humanity," Arafat said. "We strongly condemn violence, killing, destruction and the prevention of others from exercising their rights to celebrate their holy occasion." (Albawaba.com)
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