Christian Gazans leave for Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas

Palestinian Christians leave Gaza Strip for West Bank town of Bethlehem to celebrate birth of Jesus Christ

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Palestinian Christian lights candles as she attends a service at St. Porfirios Church in Gaza City.

Hundreds of Christian pilgrims left the Gaza Strip on Thursday for the West Bank town of Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas.

Israel granted special permission to 800 Christian residents to leave the blockaded strip and travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem for Christmas season, Israeli authorities said.

Families gathered at the Erez border crossing with Israel in the early hours of the morning. Some planned to travel to Bethlehem and some to other West Bank towns to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones.

"My holiday wish was for love and peace to spread in Palestine, to establish a Palestinian state, to have peace, and to end the blockage and suffering in Gaza. I am very happy today because I got permission, and I am leaving for Bethlehem," said Shadi Abu Daud, before he crossed the border.

Christians make up a minority of about 3,500 people out of Gaza's 1.5 million mostly Muslim population.