Thousands of worshipers attend Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem amid war backdrop

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Christian faithful attended Palm Sunday celebrations on Jerusalem’s sacred Mount of Olives, marking the first day of Holy Week as conflict escalated across the region.

According to the Bible, pilgrims waved branches and leaves in the air, objects that were placed before Jesus’ feet when he was greeted by cheering crowds during his entry into Jerusalem. Earlier on Sunday, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher – known as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion – also held a service.

came as an annual festival Israel-Hamas war Uproar continues in Gaza. However, the conflict appeared to have little effect on the procession, which grew to the same size as the previous year.

“Although there is a war going on, in my opinion I don’t feel any kind of tension,” said David Manini, a pilgrim from Italy.

The celebration marks the beginning of the darkest week in the Christian calendar, marking the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter.

“I’m here because I love Jesus Christ,” said Jennifer Weeden, who traveled to the United States for the occasion.

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Since the outbreak of the war, Israel has seen a sharp decline in tourism. The war began on October 7, when Hamas militants from Gaza attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 and taking 250 others hostage. Israel has responded with air and ground warfare that has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-ruled territory.

One of the placards held by a pilgrim read, “Save us Lord. St. Porphyrius Church and Holy Family Church, Gaza.”

In late October, Palestinian health officials said an Israeli strike hit St. Porphyrios, a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza where displaced Palestinians had taken shelter, killing 18 people.

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