Hundreds attend lighting of Christmas tree in Gaza

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Several hundred people gathered at a Christian youth association center in Gaza City on Saturday to celebrate the lighting of the Christmas tree.

It is the first time that such a big celebration has been held - Christians in Gaza would previously only celebrate in their church.

The event marks the first time a communal Christmas tree has been lit in Gaza.

Israeli authorities are allowing Christians living in the Gaza Strip to participate in Christmas celebrations in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Christians without permits to go to Bethlehem gathered at the youth center in Gaza City.

About 70 percent of Christians in the Strip follow the Greek Orthodox community, while the rest belong to the Latin Catholic community.

Before Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, the Christian population in the coastal enclave stood at more than 3,000 people.

According to Christian organizations in the Gaza Strip, just 1,200 Christians remain, most of them Orthodox.

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