Three Palestinians reported to have attacked Israelis in the West Bank were killed Thursday as was a Palestinian who clashed with Israeli troops, the Associated Press reported. The recent violence comes at a time when many Christians travel to Bethlehem, the supposed birthplace of Jesus, for Christmas Eve, making the traditionally joyous celebrations slightly more somber.
"We're in Bethlehem celebrating Christmas, celebrating the birthday of our lord Jesus Christ,” Rula Maayah, the Palestinian tourism minister, told the AP. “This is the birthplace of the king of peace so what we want is peace.”
Some celebrations in Bethlehem, which has been seen as a focal point for Israeli-Palestinian clashes, were canceled because of the recent violence. The annual Manger Square celebrations in Bethlehem were set to go on, however.
Hotel owners and vendors in Bethlehem have complained this holiday season of lagging business from travelers coming to the city for Christmas celebrations. The city for years saw prosperity as people came from all over the world to the place where Jesus was born to celebrate his birth.
Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said in a message pilgrims “should not be afraid to come,” the Washington Post reported. “Despite the tense situation in this land, the pilgrim route is safe and they are respected and appreciated by all sectors in the Holy Land.”
Since October, violence between Palestinians and Israelis has been constant, with 20 Israelis killed by Palestinians and 124 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or citizens, Reuters reported. Of the 124 Palestinians, 76 were described by authorities as assailants.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) December 24, 2015
Violence erupted at least in part because of the view by many Palestinian Muslims that Israeli Jews were overstepping their bounds at a holy site in Jerusalem viewed by Muslims as one of Islam’s holiest places and revered by Jews worldwide as the Temple Mount. Rules alow only Muslims to pray at the holy site while non-Muslims are allowed only to visit.