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Bethlehem Christmas tree is lit outside Church of the Nativity

The Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was all but closed last Christmas, losing its peak tourist season to the pandemic.

This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travelers for 14 days to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold, and the hope is that the ban will end as scheduled, in time for Christmas travel.

In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

The giant tree, topped with a bright red star, was lit up with hundreds of colored lights as red, white and green fireworks illuminated the night sky.

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