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In Photos:
In photos: Santa Claus sprays graffiti on separation wall in Bethlehem

Jan. 2, 2015 3:18 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2015 4:09 P.M.)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian activists dressed in Santa Claus outfits on Thursday sprayed graffiti demanding an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestinians on the Israeli separation wall in the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Activists handed out candy to passing vehicles in celebration of Christmas and the New Year as others wrote slogans on the eight-meter high concrete wall that cuts Bethlehem off from neighboring Jerusalem.

One of the youths involved in the activity said the aim was to pass on good wishes to those celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem and hopes for a new year full of happiness for Palestinian children.

The activity took place at a major intersection in Bethlehem where the Israeli wall reaches into the heart of the city to cut off the tomb of Biblical matriarch Rachel from the city around it.

Once a shared Jewish, Christian, and Muslim place of worship, the annexation of the area by Israel's wall has also meant that non-Jews are no longer allowed to enter it. Instead, they are confronted by the wall's watchtowers on every side, while access is only allowed from the Israeli side through a checkpoint forbidden to non-Jews.

Local activist Mazen al-Azza told Ma'an that the activists hoped to draw attention to the "danger" the wall represents for Bethlehem, particularly at Christmas since international attention is focused on the city and tens of thousands of foreign tourists pass through.

Al-Azza added that the activist was a message to the whole world that there should be no ambiguity regarding the Palestinian cause in the face of the Israeli occupation.

Israel began building the separation wall in 2002, and the route has been the target of regular demonstrations by border towns whose land is cut off by its path.

Israel has regularly confiscated large plots of Palestinian land in order to build the wall. When the 435-mile barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the separation wall was illegal and "tantamount to annexation."

The wall also prevents Palestinians from moving freely in the West Bank between Palestinian villages, towns, and cities, increasingly trapping them in small pockets of Palestinian control.

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