Israel and Palestine
On Wednesday, a Palestinian man was killed and an Israeli soldier wounded in the worst fighting between Israel and Palestinians since the summer's Gaza war. Israel's military said that troops retaliated against Hamas targets after a sniper fired on an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) patrol. Taysir Smeiri, a 33-year-old Hamas commander, was killed, according to Palestinian media, and at least two other Palestinians wounded after Israel sent tanks and aircraft into Gaza.
Hamas official Ismail Radian said Israel is "playing with fire" and would bear responsibility for this "dangerous escalation." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that "our policy is clear — a firm response against every attempt to disrupt the quiet in the south."
On Tuesday, Palestinian protesters wearing Santa hats and suits had clashed with Israeli troops at a checkpoint outside Bethlehem. The protesters, carrying signs like "We want Christmas without Occupation," dispersed after the IDF fired tear gas, and one man in full Santa regalia had to be carried away by medical personnel. "A group of approximately 80 Palestinians threw rocks at the checkpoint," an IDF spokesman told ABC News, and "the soldiers posted there responded with means of crowd control." Watch video of that confrontation below. --Peter Weber