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Palestinians fight Israeli attempts to claim Bethlehem

Palestine is resisting Israeli attempts to appropriate Bethlehem as the peak Christmas tourism season approaches.
A Palestinian man dressed as Santa Claus rings a bell as he stands outside a shop in the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 23, 2007. Bethlehem is about to celebrate its most peaceful -- and profitable -- Christmas since 2000. Tourist levels are the best in seven years, with more than 60,000 people visiting last month compared to about 20,000 a year ago. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK) - RTX4Z3F

As the Christmas season approaches and as tourism to the Holy Land rises, the fight over holy sites has also escalated. The Palestinian Ministry of Information published on its website a report citing an official complaint by the Palestinian ambassador in Rome, Mai al-Kalia, against Israel, which is trying to appropriate Bethlehem.

According to the Palestinian ministry, the Israeli tourism office in Rome has published touristic literature stating that “Israel, thanks to a wide range of unique sites such as the old port of Jaffa, and Nazareth, Jerusalem and Tiberias, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Masada, the Dead Sea, Fort Herod and caves near Qumran …” Four of the sites mentioned lie in the Palestinian territories, but Israel is advertising them as part of Israel in an attempt to attract Christian pilgrims from Italy.

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