Middle East

Palestinian boy, hoping to cross into Egypt with his family, stands behind a fence as he waits at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip...A Palestinian boy, hoping to cross into Egypt with his family, stands behind a fence as he waits at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip December 22, 2014. Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on Sunday for incoming passengers from the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost two months, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said. Rafah is the only major crossing between impoverished Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, and the outside world that does not border Israel, which blockades the strip and allows passage mainly on humanitarian grounds. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

A Palestinian boy, hoping to cross into Egypt with his family, stands behind a fence as he waits at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip. Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on Sunday for incoming passengers from the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost two months. 

A man dressed as Santa Claus walks on the wall of the Old City in Jerusalem Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Dusan Vranic/AP

A man dressed as Santa Claus walks along the wall of the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel

Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus holds a Palestinian flag as he argues with Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Maasara near the West Bank city of Bethlehem...A Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus holds a Palestinian flag as he argues with Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Maasara near the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 19, 2014.

Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

A Palestinian protester dressed as Santa Claus holds a Palestinian flag as he argues with Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Maasara near the West Bank city of Bethlehem

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter holds up a piece of clothing worn by an Islamic State fighter in Kesarej village, south of Zumar, Nineveh province. Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq's Sinjar mountain and freed hundreds of people trapped there by Islamic State fighter. The assault, backed by U.S. air strikes, ended the months-long ordeal of hundreds of people from Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, who had been besieged on the mountain since Islamic State stormed Sinjar and other Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq in August.

Ari Jalal/Reuters

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter holds up a piece of clothing worn by an Islamic State fighter in Kesarej village, south of Zumar, Nineveh province. Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq’s Sinjar mountain and freed hundreds of people trapped there by Islamic State fighter. The assault, backed by U.S. air strikes, ended the months-long ordeal of hundreds of people from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, who had been besieged on the mountain since Islamic State stormed Sinjar and other Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq in August

Christian worshipper is seen inside the Grotto, where Christians believe Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, at the Church of Nativity ahead of Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem...A Christian worshipper is seen inside the Grotto, where Christians believe Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, at the Church of Nativity ahead of Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 17, 2014.

Ammar Awad/Reuters

A Christian worshipper is seen inside the Grotto, where Christians believe Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, at the Church of Nativity ahead of Christmas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Wednesday

An Iranian woman walks past mannequins l...An Iranian woman walks past mannequins locked to a gas pipe in northern Tehran on December 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRIBEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty

An Iranian woman walks past mannequins locked to a gas pipe in northern Tehran on Monday 

Family members mourn and cry during a funeral of Minister Ziad Abu Ein on Thursday in Ramallah, West Bank. The Palestinian Minister died yesterday from a suspected heart attack after confronting Israeli security forces in West Bank demonstration.

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Family members mourn and cry during a funeral of Minister Ziad Abu Ein on Thursday in Ramallah, West Bank. The Palestinian Minister died yesterday from a suspected heart attack after confronting Israeli security forces in West Bank demonstration

Displaced Iraqis, who were forced to flee their home because of Islamic State's advance earlier this year, queue for humanitarian aid that is being distributed by the Barzani Charity Foundation after being delivered by lorries from the Polish charity SOS FOR LIFE at a refugee camp near Zakho in Duhok, Iraq

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Displaced Iraqis, who were forced to flee their home because of Islamic State’s advance earlier this year, queue for humanitarian aid that is being distributed by the Barzani Charity Foundation after being delivered by lorries from the Polish charity SOS FOR LIFE at a refugee camp near Zakho in Duhok, Iraq

 Israeli Orthodox jews seen protesting on December 10, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. Orthodox jews are protesting the building of a new neighbourhood in Jerusalem, because of fears it will destroy an ancient Jewish tomb at the site.

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Israeli Orthodox jews seen protesting on Wednesday in Jerusalem, Israel. Orthodox jews are protesting the building of a new neighbourhood in Jerusalem, because of fears it will destroy an ancient Jewish tomb at the site

A woman carries a child as she walks past a boy selling yogurt along a street in Aleppo's Bab al-Hadeed district December 10, 2014.

Mahmoud Hebbo/Reuters

A woman carries a child as she walks past a boy selling yogurt along a street in Aleppo’s Bab al-Hadeed district on Wdnesday

A Palestinian man and his son are seen in the living room of their house which was destroyed during the 50-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas-led militants, on Decembre 10, 2014 in Gaza City. The Israeli military committed war crimes during its Gaza offensive this summer and must be investigated, human rights monitor Amnesty International yesterday.

Mohammed Abed/AFP

A Palestinian man and his son sit quietly in what was the living room of their house, which was destroyed during the 50-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas-led militants, on Wednesday in Gaza City

A police officer stands guard as Shia pilgrims make their way to the holy city of Kerbala, ahead of the holy Shia ritual of Arbaeen, in Baghdad, December 10, 2014. Arbaeen falls 40 days after the holy day of Ashura.

Ahmed Saad/Reuters

A police officer stands guard as Shia pilgrims head to the holy city of Kerbala, ahead of the holy Shia ritual of Arbaeen, in Baghdad on Wednesday. Arbaeen falls 40 days after the holy day of Ashura

Men sell firewood on a rainy day in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus December 9, 2014. The graffiti on the wall reads, "For the liberation of the humans".

Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

Men sell firewood on a rainy day in the Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria on Tuesday. The graffiti on the wall reads: “For the liberation of the humans.”

 An Iraqi Christian, who fled from her home because of Islamic State's advance earlier this year, hangs up washed clothes to dry besides a displaced persons camp near Umm al-Nour Church, which is now home to hundreds of displaced Iraqi Christians in Erbil, Iraq.  Although the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was already a refuge for an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees, since the Islamic State began its onslaught on Iraq in June, Kurdistan has also taken in a more than one and a half million displaced people. Many have been placed in purpose-built refugee camps but the huge numbers mean thousands of others are forced to live in un-finished buildings or inadequate, makeshift shelters and as winter in the region closes in, there are growing concerns for the welfare of the refugees who, while their homes are still in ISIL controlled territory, have no realistic prospect of returning to them.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

An Iraqi Christian, who fled from her home because of Islamic State’s advance earlier this year, hangs up washed clothes to dry besides a displaced persons’ camp near Umm al-Nour Church, which is now home to hundreds of displaced Iraqi Christians in Erbil, Iraq.

A Palestinian worker carries a hammer as he participates in efforts to clear the rubble of a school, that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the east of Gaza City December 3, 2014. According to housing minister Mufeed al-Hasayna, Gaza needs 8,000 tonnes of cement a day to meet demand. A new system set up with the United Nations to comply with Israeli requirements lets through at most 2,000, he said. At that rate, reconstruction would take more than 30 years, said Hasayna, one of four members of the unity government based in Gaza rather than the West Bank. Hasayna signed an agreement with the U.N. Development Programme and the Swedish government last week to equip and hire local contractors to clear and recycle rubble from northern Gaza

Suhaib Salem/Reuters

A Palestinian worker carries a hammer as he participates in efforts to clear the rubble of a school, that was destroyed by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the east of Gaza City on Wednesday

Yemeni police gather at the damaged residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. A massive car bomb exploded Wednesday morning in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, apparently targeting the home of the Iranian ambassador, Yemeni security officials said.

Hani Mohammed/AP

Yemeni police gather at the damaged residence of the Iranian ambassador after a massive car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday morning

An Orthodox man prays at the Western Wall in the Old City on Tuesday in Jerusalem, Israel. As violence continues in Israel, an Israeli was stabbed and lightly injured Monday morning in the West Bank south of Jerusalem. Nine Israelis have been killed in a series of stabbings, shootings and hit-and-run attacks in Jerusalem over the past month, unsettling the ancient city of Jerusalem where Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for thousands of years. The tension and violence on the streets of the city is threatening to further isolate communities and to encourage extremist politicians exploit the situation

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An Orthodox man prays at the Western Wall in the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel, on Tuesday.

Participants compete in a running race along a street in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, a rebel-controlled area December 2, 2014.

Mahmoud Hebbo/Reuters

Participants compete in a running race along a street in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, a rebel-controlled area on Tuesday.

An Iraqi craftsman prepares to heat up metal at a workshop in a market in Baghdad on December 2, 2014. The International Monetary Fund said in its October World Economic Outlook that Iraq's gross domestic product is forecast to shrink by 2.7 percent this year, down from the 5.9 percent growth it forecast in April.

Ahmad Al-Rubate/AFP

An Iraqi craftsman prepares to heat up metal at a workshop in a market in Baghdad on Tuesday

Military honour guard stand outside the main building of the new Presidential Palace complex after a welcome ceremony for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. Putin arrived in Turkey for a one-day visit and met with Erdogan at his huge new palace on once-protected farm land and forest in Ankara, becoming the second foreign dignitary after the Pope Francis to be hosted at the lavish, 1000-room complex.

Burhan Ozbilici/AP

Military honour guard stand outside the main building of the new Presidential Palace complex after a welcome ceremony for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ankara, Turkey. Putin arrived in Turkey for a one-day visit and met with Erdogan at his huge new palace on once-protected farm land and forest in Ankara on Monday