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Another Middle East Christmas marred by conflict

Protesters – some dressed as Santa Claus – in Bethlehem were subjected to tear gas fired from Israeli troops during clashes in the area

Published: Updated:

As most Christians celebrate the eve of Christmas, most in cities like Syria’s Aleppo and Iraq’s Mosul face despair as they face another December 25th under conflict.

Crowds gathered in Bethlehem Saturday for Christmas Eve celebrations ahead of midnight mass at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, with more visitors expected than in 2015 due to a drop in violence.

But a day earlier, protesters – some dressed as Santa Claus – in Bethlehem were subjected to tear gas fired from Israeli troops during clashes in the area.

Below are photos showing how people living in some of the worst-hit conflict cities in the Middle East spent their Christmas Eve.

Palestinian protester, dressed as Santa Claus, argues with an Israeli policemen during clashes at a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Reuters)
Palestinian protester, dressed as Santa Claus, argues with an Israeli policemen during clashes at a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Reuters)
A Syrian refugee from Aleppo takes a picture of her son posing with a Lebanese volunteer dressed as Santa Claus on December 24. (AFP)
A Syrian refugee from Aleppo takes a picture of her son posing with a Lebanese volunteer dressed as Santa Claus on December 24. (AFP)
There are only about 100,000 Christians left in Aleppo out of the 250,000 before the war, according to demographic expert Fabrice Balanche. (AFP)
There are only about 100,000 Christians left in Aleppo out of the 250,000 before the war, according to demographic expert Fabrice Balanche. (AFP)
ISIS seized Bartalla in the summer of 2014, leaving Iraqi-Christians with the grim choices of conversion, paying a tax, fleeing or death. (AFP)
ISIS seized Bartalla in the summer of 2014, leaving Iraqi-Christians with the grim choices of conversion, paying a tax, fleeing or death. (AFP)
this combination of eight portraits shows residents of a camp where Christians displaced by ISIS are living in Erbil. (AP)
this combination of eight portraits shows residents of a camp where Christians displaced by ISIS are living in Erbil. (AP)
A security member stands guards on the top of church during a mass on Christmas Eve at the Mar Shemoni church in the town of Bartella east of Mosul. (Reuters)
A security member stands guards on the top of church during a mass on Christmas Eve at the Mar Shemoni church in the town of Bartella east of Mosul. (Reuters)