Israeli troops have temporarily withdrawn to theoutskirts of Bethlehem as Christians prepared to markChristmas in the West Bank town.
The army said it pulled back to enable prayer servicesto go ahead, but the town’s Palestinian mayor saidcelebrations would be muted.
Bethlehem had been under curfew for the past month.
Israeli army spokesman Amos Gilad told army radio thattroops would stay out of the central square but wouldremain in the town itself, French news agency AFPreported.
"You will not be able to see a besieged city ontelevision, because we will do everything we can forreligious celebrations to take place as planned,"General Gilad was quoted as saying.
The city’s mayor Hanna Nasser said, "Bethlehem is asad city. It’s the first time in the city’s historythat the Christmas tree is not lit."
We first go to Manger Square to speaker with KristenSchurr and then go an interview with the founders ofthe Palestinian International Solidarity Movement whowere in our Firehouse studios last week.
- Kristen Schurr, journalist with Free SpeechRadio News
- Huwaida Arraf, Palestinian-American who helpedfound the International Solidarity Movement
- Adam Shapiro, American Jew who helped found theInternational Solidarity Movement
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