Thousands of pilgrims, tourists and local Christians gathered in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday to begin Christmas Eve celebrations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' government narrowly dodged a full-blown cash crisis after Israel agreed Wednesday — under intense international pressure — to resume the transfer of $100 million a month in frozen tax funds.
Preparations for a long-needed renovation of the 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity are moving ahead in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus' birth, in the face of political and religious conflicts that have kept one of Christendom's holiest sites in a state of decay for centuries.
Palestinian officials said Sunday they won't be able to pay upcoming public-sector salaries that support nearly one-third of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza, the clearest sign yet that Israeli economic sanctions are starting to bite.
Water fowl, monitor lizards and stray dogs have replaced the throngs of tourists at one of Thailand's greatest historical sites. Record flooding has turned Ayutthaya's ancient temples into islands, and a giant statue of the reclining Buddha appears to float miraculously on the lapping water.
It's not just UNESCO: The Palestinians' top envoy in Geneva said Tuesday he thinks joining the U.N. agency for culture, education and science will "open the door" to joining 16 other U.N. agencies within weeks.
Palestine became a full member of UNESCO on Monday in a highly divisive breakthrough that will cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.
The Palestinian Authority's bid for U.N. recognition has substantial downsides, including wrecking the peace process and increasing regional instability. The upside is that it could drive the United States out of the United Nations.
The Obama administration cut off funding for the U.N. cultural agency on Monday, after its member countries defied a U.S. warning and approved a Palestinian bid for full membership.