Friday, December 25, 2009
Church Concerned Over Gaza Dire Situation
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Bethlehem, Patriarch Fouad Twal, has voiced concerns over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
"How can one celebrate while Palestinians are still struggling with a devastating blockade one year after Israel's onslaught on Gaza?" Twal said while addressing the Midnight Mass at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on Thursday.
Twal went on to complain that people have no freedom to move around freely and travel or to reunite with their families, alluding to the Israeli policy of restricting Palestinian residents by building separation walls and erecting a large number of checkpoints throughout the West Bank.
Bethlehem is surrounded by Israel's separation wall on three sides.
He further pointed out that the Palestinians are tired of such a situation.
He made the remarks as thousands of Christians gathered to celebrate Christmas in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, where the birth place of Jesus Christ is taken to be.
The Christmas celebration was aimed at challenging the Israeli movement restrictions at a time when Gazan worshippers were banned from attending the ceremonies.
Despite the stringent Israeli security measures, Bethlehem hotels reported full occupancy for the first time in months.
Christmas celebrations began at noon on Thursday, marking Christmas Eve with the annual procession led by Twal.
In December 2008, Tel Aviv launched a three-week all-out military offensive against Gaza, killing at least 1,400 people, including a large number of women and children, and leaving thousands more injured.
The Gaza Strip has been in a state of calamity ever since, with thousands of people still homeless due to the long-imposed Israeli siege on the Palestinian sliver.