BETHLEHEM (AP) — Only a few dozen people attended the lighting of the Christmas tree in the biblical city of Bethlehem on Saturday night, as coronavirus restrictions scaled back the annual event that is normally attended by thousands.
A small group of residents and religious leaders participated in the tree-lighting ceremony at Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born. Others watched it virtually due to restrictions prompted by the virus pandemic.
Some officials, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, attended in person and addressed event participants watching online.
Shtayyeh said the Palestinian leadership is receiving the new year with determination to “confronting the (Israeli) occupation more firmly” and ending the internal political division with the rival militant Hamas group. He said the Palestinians would “defeat the settlement”-building in the occupied West Bank despite the pandemic.