Mr Hanna Nasser, Mayor of Bethlehem, criticized the 'silence' of the Christian world over the plight of his city. At a press conference about the forthcoming Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, Nasser said: "For more than four years, the Israeli army has continuously invaded Bethlehem and destroyed confiscated lands, while the Christian world has stood by doing little - even though Bethlehem has a unique importance for Christians, and non Christians, all over the world." When the Church of the Nativity was besieged in April 2002, he said, the world did little to help - and when the crisis was over, the besieged residents were deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe. Nasser said the army was continuously confiscating lands in the north of the city for the separation wall, while settlers and soldiers controlled Palestinian homes near Rachel's Tomb, in order to convert that area into further settlements. Nasser said the size of Bethlehem was reducing day by day as the Israeli authorities continue to expand settlements surrounding the city. He said they were destroying its fields, and have destroyed the northern entrance which was the main entrance for tourists and pilgrims. Commenting on Israeli pledges to allow Christian pilgrims to enter the city for Christmas, Nasser said he was worried that these promises might not be kept. In the past, pilgrims have had great difficulties entering the area. He added, that because of the recent death of President Arafat, the Bethlehem municipality had decided to reduce Christmas decorations this year, limiting them to the Manger Square area. But, he promised there would a 'decorated and shining' Christmas tree in the square. Source: www.imemc.org
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