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War-Torn Christmas: Gloomy Christmas in Gaza and Ukraine

As the hardships of war continue in various parts of the world including the Gaza Strip in Palestine and Ukraine. The global community faces a somber Christmas.

According to AP and AFP reports on the 24th (local time), the Israeli military continued airstrikes on the Gaza Strip even on Christmas Eve. Witnesses reported that from the previous night into the early hours of the day, the Israeli military’s airstrikes were concentrated in areas such as Rafah and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip resulting in numerous casualties.

In a statement issued the same day, the Israeli military said “Overnight, our land, sea, and air forces struck about 200 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.” There were also reports that a family of about 70 people including UN staff were killed in the Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

On the same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed speculation that the U.S. had recently asked Israel not to escalate military action emphasizing, “Israel is a sovereign state. Our military decisions are based on our calculations.”

The Israeli military also reported that with the death of nine soldiers the day before, the total number of soldiers killed since the outbreak of the war on October 7 has risen to 152.

Ukraine which is facing its second Christmas amid war is also spending a quiet Christmas this year. With Russia attacking infrastructure such as power plants in anticipation of winter Ukraine is once again suffering from shortages of electricity, heating, and water supply.

However, this year Ukraine has broken away from the Russian Orthodox Church tradition of celebrating Christmas on January 7th according to the Julian calendar as part of its ‘eradication of Russian influence.’ For the first time in 100 years, Ukraine is celebrating Christmas on December 25th so more diverse Christmas events are expected compared to last year.

In the meantime, Christmas events have been canceled or drastically reduced in Middle Eastern countries with Christian populations including Bethlehem known as the birthplace of Jesus on the west bank of the Jordan River as well as Syria and Lebanon. Bethlehem, which used to hold grand celebrations such as dazzling tree-lighting ceremonies and parades every Christmas, had none of these this year.

The entire city was in mourning as over 20,000 people died in the Gaza Strip just 43.5 miles away from Bethlehem.

In Syria, where there are Christian churches all Christmas decorations have completely disappeared. In the central city of Azaz in northern Syria a giant Christmas tree used to be erected and decorated with lights and ornaments in December, but this year it was nowhere to be found.

Mor Dionysius Anton Shahada Archbishop of the Syrian Catholic Church stated, “In Syria, all official commemorative and welcoming events held in churches have been canceled in solidarity with the victims of the Israeli military’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.”

By. So Jin Lee

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