Christians across Mideast celebrate Christmas Eve

1230172794545_1230172794545_r1.jpgWATCH VIDEO
Christians across the Middle East celebrated Christmas Eve on Wednesday. The celebrations came despite an escalation in violence in the region.

Militants in Gaza pummeled southern Israel following the expiration of a six-month ceasefire between the two sides.

Palestinian Christian children wear festive hats as they
light candles inside the Church of Nativity, believed by
many to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, during Christmas
celebrations in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Wednesday,
Dec. 24, 2008. [Agencies]

The Holy Land’s top Roman Catholic cleric, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, arrived at the Church of the Nativity compound in Bethlehem. Twal was there to lead midnight mass.

Twal became the top Catholic leader in the Holy Land in June. He is the second Palestinian to hold the post.

And in Iraq, Christian and Muslim schoolchildren celebrated Christmas Eve at their school in eastern Baghdad.

The Catholic school, run by nuns, was opened in 1994 and accepts both Christian and Muslim children.

The Christmas Eve Mass for Baghdad’s small and beleaguered Christian community started before dusk. This was instead of its traditional time of midnight, out of security concerns in the Iraqi capital.