Hundreds of extra security personnel have been brought into Bethlehem, as thousands of Christian pilgrims are expected to descend on the Palestinian city. Violence in Palestine has increased dramatically in recent months, with 120 Palestinians, 20 Israelis and one US citizen killed since October.

An additional 7,000 tourists are expected to visit the city revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ over the Christmas period.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism Rula Ma'ayah said: "Bethlehem is ready to celebrate Christmas, is ready to celebrate all tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, and despite all these problems, we hope that the real picture about Palestine and Palestinians will go to the whole world because now the whole world is looking to Palestine, to Bethlehem. We really hope that the real image of Palestinians will appear".

The security personnel were placed in and around the city ahead of the arrival of Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem, to lead midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity. It is thought around 1.6 million people have visited Bethlehem in 2015, although numbers have dwindled in recent months due to the increase in violence.

Belgian tourist Annemie Vanermen said: "I'm very happy to be here and to also have the opportunity to celebrate this in this place. I will never have this opportunity again and it's very special because it's of course a place where Jesus [was] born and to be on this day on Christmas it's just wonderful to be here".