The cradle of Christianity was rocked by an unholy punch-up when Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests came to blows in a dispute over how to clean Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.
The ancient place of worship, built over the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago, is shared by various branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.
The brawl apparently began when Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church after the Christmas Day celebrations.
Armenian priests claimed that the ladders encroached on their portion of the church, which led the two sects to exchange angry words which quickly turned to blows.
Witnesses said that the robed and bearded priests scuffled for more than an hour using fists, brooms and iron rods as weapons.
Photographers who came to document the annual cleaning ceremony instead recorded the entire event.
Five priests were lightly injured in the melee, which was eventually broken up by a dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen. Two of the policemen were hurt in ending the brawl.