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Israeli forces suppress Bethlehem’s ‘Santa Claus march’ with tear gas, rubber bullets

This was the second such march to be organised this year in Bethlehem for the Christian holidays
A Palestinian man dressed up as Santa Claus throws back a tear gas grenade fired by Israeli border guard during clashes at a demonstration next to a section of Israel's separation wall in the biblical town of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, on December 23, 2016 [Shadi Hatem/ApaImages]
A Palestinian man dressed up as Santa Claus throws back a tear gas grenade fired by Israeli border guard during clashes at a demonstration next to a section of Israel's separation wall in the biblical town of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, on December 23, 2016 [Shadi Hatem/ApaImages]

Israeli forces Friday suppressed Bethlehem’s “Santa Claus March,” shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at participants, with many suffering from tear gas inhalation.

A number of demonstrators, including five journalists and foreigners, participated in a march near the Israeli checkpoint 300 in the north of Bethlehem, which separates residents from Jerusalem.

The march, which includes participants dressing up as Santa Claus close to the Christian holiday of Christmas, was launched under the banner “Terrorism and occupation are two sides of the same coin,” and demanded the opening of Israeli checkpoints for Christian tourists to celebrate the holiday in the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

A reported of the Ma’an news agency witnessed Israeli forces fire rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas into the crowd, which caused a number of participants to suffer tear gas inhalation. Five journalists were also injured, including the cameraman for the Jordanian Al-Roya TV Muhammad Shoudha. Israeli forces reportedly fired tear gas canisters directly at his foot.

An Israeli border police spokesperson told Ma’an that “15 men in the afternoon threw rocks at Israeli soldiers,” he said, adding that “some of them were dressed as Santa Claus and tried to cross the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”

This was the second such march to be organised this year in Bethlehem for the Christian holidays.

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