Thousands of pilgrims and tourists poured into Bethlehem on Tuesday to celebrate Christmas Eve and attend the traditional midnight mass held in the Church of the Nativity.

According to Israel Radio, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to take part in the festivities.

Hundreds of people gathered around the church, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus, and sang carols and seasonal songs, the report said. Local hoteliers boasted full occupancy for the holiday.

There are an estimated 30,000 Christians living in the town, located south of Jerusalem. According to the report, 500 Christians from Gaza were given permission to travel to the West Bank in order to participate in Christmas events.

Sky News reported that Latin Patriach of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, is expected to condemn Israeli settlement construction as an obstacle to peace during his midnight mass sermon.