Wire Service: AP
On December 24, 2004 the Associated Press reported, "Israel allowed free travel into Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and handed out candy to Palestinians and foreign pilgrims at roadblocks, the latest sign that Israeli-Palestinian relations have warmed since the death of Yasser Arafat. During more than four years of fighting, Christmas in the traditional birthplace of Jesus has been marked by gloom, military curfews and violence. The town is ringed by Israeli checkpoints and a massive separation barrier. However, on Friday, troops allowed pilgrims to pass freely through the roadblocks, and military officials said they expected about 5,000 visitors for the two-day holiday. Israeli troops also handed security responsibility for Bethlehem to the Palestinian security forces for the duration of Christmas, officials said."