Land sales row mars Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem

Palestinian Christian groups are boycotting celebrations of Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem, accusing their Church of selling land to Israelis.

At least 100 protesters gathered with banners saying: "The Holy Land is not for sale," ahead of festivities to mark Christmas Eve for the Orthodox Church.

They accuse the Greek Orthodox Church of selling and leasing land in the West Bank to Israeli organisations.

The Church said it would not comment, on such a festive occasion.

The Council of Arab Orthodox Institutions and Organisations in Palestine said the current patriarch, Theophilos III, had continued to allow Israeli investors to lease Church land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The area was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, and is where the Palestinians want their future state.

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