this is bbc news, i'm mike embley. our top stories: pope francis celebrates midnight mass at the vatican, calling on the faithful not to abandon god's love at christmas because of the church's failings. russian and turkish officials say they're trying to stop the escalation of fighting in the syrian province of idlib — but the number of dead keeps on rising. critics say president trump's tough immigration policy is putting asylum seekers at risk. we have a special report from the us—mexico border. and we look back at one of the most extraordinary operations of the korean war to save hundreds of thousands trapped in a north korean port.
thousands of worshippers have packed st peter's basilica in rome for christmas eve midnight mass. pope francis told the faithful that god loves everyone, "even the worst of us", and urged them to give thanks. the pope, generally seen as a reformist leader of the catholic church, also spoke of change. this from our rome correspondent mark lowen. in the gilded splendour of st peter's basilica, this was a solemn christmas eve's mass. the seventh that pope francis has led. he talked of god's love, you may have made a mess of things, but the lord continues to love you. that may be seen as continues to love you. that may be seen as some as a reference to church scandals, including sex
abuse. perhaps then, there was a pointed message in his words, we change, the church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to changes, once we stop trying to change others, but change ourselves. among those taking part in the liturgy were children chosen from countries including venezuela, iraq and uganda, a clear adjusterfrom the leader of 1.3 billion catholics who often focus on the plight of migrants and victims of war as well as on extending the reach of the church to its periphery. after the spirituality of midnight mass, comes the pope's message, where he is expected to touch a little more on political themes, close to the heart of the 83—year—old pontiff. mark lowen, bbc news. pilgrims from around the world have been gathering in the city of bethlehem, revered by christians
as the birthplace ofjesus, to celebrate christmas in the holy land. thousands converged on the town in the israeli—occupied west bank, with festivities centred around the church of the nativity. from bethlehem, our correspondent barbara plett usher. bells ringing this is bethlehem's time of year — when it invites the world to celebrate the story of a humble birth that changed history. the midnight mass is held in the grandeur of the church built to mark the place wherejesus christ is said to have been born, now located in the israeli—occupied west bank. it's been a difficult year for palestinians, but christmas is a time of hope. may the child of bethlehem arouse much tenderness in all of us and make us smile once again. even if it does not solve all our problems, the child will certainly make us happier. for bethlehem's christians, there was a special gift from the vatican — a splinter of wood believe to be from jesus‘ manger.
it's small, but a big boost for a community decimated by waves of emigration. and bethlehem is enjoying its busiest tourist season in decades. a bright spot despite dark times for the palestinian economy. earlier, the procession of christian leaders from jerusalem crossed into bethlehem through an israeli army checkpoint, in a concrete barrier that separates the two cities. in the holy land, the christmas cheer is always wrapped in political realities. it's a merry christmas here — lots of sparkling lights and happy people. but in this town and in this region, the situation is fragile. so perhaps the only permanent thing is faith. the faith of things hoped for, if not yet seen. barbara plett usher, bbc news, bethlehem. russian and turkish officials have been discussing how to stop an escalation of fighting in the syrian province of idlib. syrian government forces —
backed by russian planes — have been mounting an offensive againstjihadist—led militias in the province. one of the latest attacks killed eight people — including five children — who were taking shelter in a school. gareth barlow reports: this is the moment and airstrike hit buildings in italy province. members of the white helmets volunteer rescue force surged through the dust and rubble for victims. charred remains mark where syrian government forces backed by russia have launched their campaign to retake the region from rebel fighters. dozens of civilians have been killed in recent days. translation: we were on our way, there were barrels and rockets and
shells. we are asking for god's mercian united nations to see what happened to us. because of president bashar and the russian army, they are killing us. turkey has warned it is struggling to cope with tens of thousands of refugees trying to cross the border. angora is working with moscow, syria's ela, to try to hold the fighting. the united nation's member has called for an immediate end to the violence —— syria's key ally. we are seriously concerned. he reminded of all parties to remember their obligations and protect freedom of movement. the syrian government, which has captured tens of pounds, says it is committed to recapturing the regions and will try to protect civilians —— towns. but many civilians —— towns. but many civilians have been repeatedly displaced, this latest round of fighting is far too familiar and
deadly. gareth barlow, bbc news. a british man and his two children have died after drowning in a swimming pool at a resort in the costa del sol, in the south of spain. it's believed a nine—year—old girl got into difficulties in the water and her brother and father attempted to rescue her, but drowned. we spoke to fernando torres, a reporterfor the spanish newspaper diario sur who has been at the resort where the deaths took place. we were told that it indeed was the girl with the troubles, perhaps with the pumps. the brother tried to help her and they had troubles too. it wasn't nobody from the resort at the pool, but a recent manager told me that they don't need to because the pool is too little to need a lifeguard there. so police were investigating the incident at the moment.
divers — two there — were trying to find clues in the pool but they didn't at the first look. the investigation is still open so they don't really know what happened there. it's christmas day in australia, but hundreds of families are spending the day in emergency shelters, unable to celebrate in their homes as the country battles one of its worst bushfire disasters in years. —— some of. figures released by firefighters in new south wales reveal nearly a thousand houses have been destroyed. conditions have eased, but another extreme heatwave is due later this week. prime minister scott morrison has taken a lot of criticism for going on holiday during the bushfires. he's since returned and apologised for being away. he says volunteer firefighters, who work in the federal public sector, will be given an extra four weeks paid leave. phil mercer reports from new south wales. koalas and other australian animals
are the unseen victims of the fires. much of their habitat has been destroyed and the survivors need all the help they can get. the true extent of australia's bushfire crisis is gradually emerging as the charred remains of devastated towns are inspected. since the start ofjuly, the authorities here in new south wales say almost 1,000 homes have been destroyed by the bushfires. this property was devoured by flames that tore up through a gully at the back. communities like this terrorised by fires that, in many places, are simply burning out of control. we just want to make sure that you guys have got stuff for your community. the damage would be far worse without the efforts of volunteer firefighters. here in buxton, locals have been showing their appreciation to those who have been working around the clock to keep the town safe. it is just overwhelming support, like, you know, obviously,
with presents and stuff for the kids. i haven't even done any christmas shopping or anything for my daughter. she will turn one on january the 11th. to boost the emergency efforts the australian prime minister, scott morrison, says that volunteer firefighters who have jobs in the public service will be given four weeks' paid leave. some have been battling the fires for months and with no end in sight to the crisis, a long, dangerous summer lies ahead. phil mercer, bbc news, new south wales. mr morrison released a christmas message alongside his wifejenny in which he praised the efforts of all of those fighting the country's fires. he delivered a tribute to the two volunteer firefighters who lost their lives earlier this week. we think especially of the families of andrew o'dwyer and geoff keaton, who we lost in the fires recently here in new south wales.
and to melissa and tojess and all of your family, to andrew and jeff's parents, we know this will be a tough christmas for you this year — the first one without both of these amazing men — and to all of those out there in the horsley park brigade, we send our great love and our best wishes to you. they are a reminder of why this country is amazing and they are a reminder of what we have got to give thanks for, despite these many challenges. so, on behalf of our family to yours, we wish you a very merry christmas. prime minister scott morrison and his wife there. let's get some of the day's other news: in northern burkina faso, militants killed 35 — mostly female — civilians, after attacking a military outpost in arbinda, in the soum province. authorities said around 87 insurgents and local security forces also died in the clash. the president has declared two days of national mourning in response. it's the latest deadly incident in an ongoing battle between the west african country and an islamist insurgency. new figures from japan show that fewer babies were born there this year than at any time
since records began. there were around 500,000 more deaths than births injapan this year, despite government efforts to lift the birth rate. it's trying to improve work—life balance, but japan's gruelling work culture still puts many people off starting a family. there have been more violent clashes in hong kong between the police and anti—government protesters, who've been holding christmas eve rallies in shopping malls and other areas popular with tourists. the city is reeling from its seventh straight month of protests, originally sparked by a now—scrapped extradition bill. the bbc‘sjon donnison reports. not much evidence of festive cheer in hong kong this year. security forces firing tear gas, once again squared up to anti—government protesters, doing their best to protect themselves with umbrellas. caught up in the chaos, tourists and families out and about to take in
the christmas lights. demonstrators also occupied a number of shopping malls in kowloon. but it soon turned ugly as baton—wielding plain—clothes undercover police moved in. several protesters were arrested and dragged away. others were injured, as officers struggled to restore calm. and all of this on christmas eve. translation: even though today is meant to be a joyful holiday, some of us are in jail. some have been arrested, and they can enjoy today. i think we should remind others that our fight has not ended yet and we should continue our fight. translation: this year, christmas eve seems to be the time to fight — notjust christmas eve, but also new year's eve.
and we will use more festivals in the future to voice our demands, until the government response. the government has been forced to make some concessions but these pro—democracy protests have now been going on for seven months. and as the year comes to a close, there is no end in sight. jon donnison, bbc news. stay with us on bbc world news. still to come: we look back at one of the most extraordinary operations of the korean war to save hundreds of thousands trapped at a north korean port. the world of music's been paying tribute to george michael who's died from suspected heart failure at the age of 53. he sold well over 100 million albums in a career spanning more than three decades. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon says it's failed in its principle objective — to capture noriega and take him to the united states to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. in its place, the russian flag
was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day broke slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan am's maid of the seas, nose down in the soft earth. you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys high, a football pitch wide, falls from 30,000 feet. christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkodra where there were anti—communist riots 10 days ago. this is bbc news. the latest headlines: pope francis has celebrated midnight mass at the vatican. he called on the faithful not to abandon god's love at christmas because of the church's failings. president donald trump has made good on his promise to reduce the numbers of people being given
asylum in the us. but critics say his means could be putting asylum seekers at risk. those who apply often face a wait in mexico for months, and even then, their chances are slim. for an increasing number, fleeing persecution in their own countries and unable to return, the crackdown has led them to take desperate measures. ana gabriela rojas reports from matamoros, on the mexico—texas border. as winter approaches, this corner of the world becomes even more hostile to those seeking safe insecurity. this woman is too scared to go home to honduras where she had wanted for political activism. she has spent four months in this squalid conditions on the border. now, she has taken a step that feels any pardon. she sent her seven—year—old son across the board alone.
president trump crackdown on immigration seeks that fewer get asylum. if children arrive alone, the us makes take them in. a local who volunteers here says people are becoming increasingly desperate. now, almost on a daily basis, i talk to italy several families have now sent over children or teenage children who have presented themselves without their parents. this forum asylum officer said america's migration system is a sign to keep people out, even those at risk. the government is doing this programme where they are not actually evaluating if someone would be persecuted and tortured, no matter what that individual says to the officer, they will be sent back to mexico to the extent that we are sending back people that we know will be harmed. we are violating international law. fernando's son is still in the custody of us authorities but she says she has no
regrets. what would you say to people who criticise you for sending your son? for her and people who criticise you for sending yourson? for herand many people who criticise you for sending your son? for her and many others, it is when or even if they will be reunited again. india's cabinet has approved the allocation of more than a billion dollars to conduct a detailed census and population survey next year. there are fears that the database could be used to build a register of citizens against which there have been widespread protests. there have been more rallies across india against the proposed register, as well as a new citizenship law. anbarasan ethirajan has this report. students, activists and women accompanied by children braved the cold to express their anger against citizenship law. critics say it is
anti—muslim and goes against the values of india's secular constitution. the anger is spreading across india despite bad is an internet shut down. what we tend to achieve is aspire communities across india who are against this so india comes to a halt. the authorities have now gone ahead, allocating more than a billion dollars with a new survey next year. there are fears that the database could be used to build a citizenship check on national register of citizens. the protests have ta ken the national register of citizens. the protests have taken the government by surprise. a senior minister has assured that they will not be implemented for the time being. translation: there is no discussion on nrc. the prime minister is right. there is none in the cabinet or the
parliament. the manifesto of my party is in its place and whenever it happens, it won't be discreet. the latest move by the government is seen as a the latest move by the government is seen as a tactical retreat was not at least 2a people have been killed in the violence and the protests are spreading from city to city. for the first time, people across india are standing up to the hindu nationalist government. how this will play out in the coming weeks will have a long lasting impact on india. it was an operation codenamed christmas cargo and remains one of the most extraordinary stories of the korean war. hundreds of thousands of un forces and north korean refugees found themselves trapped at a port called hungnam in december 1950. hundreds of us ships became involved in the rescue operation. there are thought to be over a million descendants of those helped that day, including the current president of south korea, moonjae—in. laura bicker has the story. it was a race against time.
the chinese army was advancing, thousands of un forces and north korean refugees were trapped at hungnam. ..of theirfearof the communist regime... there was only one way out — by sea. translation: it was war. we knew we would die if we didn't get on board a ship. we didn't think of anything else. we didn't know where the ship was going. it didn't matter. loaded down with their few belongings... the us navy saved as many as they could. 100,000 north koreans left hungnam that day, never to return. translation: we were bundled under a blanket, so many were on the ship. we were alljammed together. a shower from a wave washed over me and my mum, we feared we were going to drown and become a sea spirit. history's most
successful evacuation. no—one died on board. instead, there was new life. five babies were born by the time the ship docked at gyeongju in the south of south korea. lee gyeong—pil was one of them. translation: my mother was not prepared to give birth when she boarded the ship. so when i was born, the midwife had to use her teeth to cut my umbilical cord. it was december the 25th, christmas day, so people said the fact that i didn't die and was born was a christmas miracle. the americans didn't know any korean names, so affectionately called each baby ‘kimchi' after the fermented cabbage dish. mr lee was kimchi number five. the day before christmas, the last battalion of the third division is evacuated. rescuing civilians had never been part of the us navy's original plan.
i think that's the miracle of this whole story, is that so many people came together, they saw these refugees there, they were north korean refugees, technically the enemy, but you couldn't help but feel sorry for them. so, somehow itjust happened that these guys there at hungnam listened to their better angels and did, what i like to say, the right thing for the right reasons in a very difficult situation. after the last boat leaves shore, the order is given and the entire port blown up. the north korean port was destroyed by the americans as they left. thousands still died. but those who got the chance to live are forever grateful to have been part of this very special christmas cargo. laura bicker, bbc news, seoul. anchors away! now, if you're hoping that santa might deliver the latest tesla, >> we have updates on santa's
presses. he is in french guam. now, if you're hoping that santa might deliver the latest tesla, the cyber truck this christmas, but its price tag is a little above your budget, then this might be the answer. it's a mock tesla built by a russian car enthusiast and it's been turning heads on the streets of moscow. it's based on an old lada hatchback that he bought forjust over a dollar. it's not as environmentally friendly as elon musk‘s creation and still has its old engine powering it. since the real cyber truck was unveiled last month, tesla said they've received more than 200,000 pre—orders. as for the mock tesla, its preorder book is currently empty. very briefly, that main story again. pope francis has celebrated midnight mass at the vatican. he called on the faithful not to abandon god's love at christmas because of the church's failings. there is more on
the news for you at any time on the bbc website. thank you for watching. hello there. well, it doesn't look like there is going to be any snowfall on christmas day, but because it'll be quite cold, there could be a little bit of festive frost to start the day. and the reason for the settled cold weather for christmas day is this ridge of high pressure, which will settle things down, bring light winds and plenty of sunshine. but it is short—lived because this next area of low pressure will come sweeping in for boxing day to bring us all a spell of wet and windy weather. you will also notice as the wet and windy weather arrives, it'll push the christmas day blue cold air away from our shores and it will be replaced by the oranges and yellows, indicating very mild conditions, particularly as we end the week and start the weekend. but as we start christmas day, very early on, there'll be one or two showers around, but even these will fade.
as the ridge of high pressure builds in, they will settle down, with clearing skies for many and with lighter winds will turn quite cold. temperatures close to freezing in many places, with a touch of frost in places, maybe little bits of mist and fog too. so christmas day is looking cold, but dry, bright, plenty of sunshine, we'll have a little bit of festive frost to start the day in places. so a dry, sunny day for most, a little bit of patchy cloud for north—west england, perhaps northern and western scotland where there could be the odd shower, but even these will be fading through the day. sunshine will be fading across the far west, though. later in the day, high cloud starts to move in ahead of that weather the system. but most places will see the sunshine continue, but it's going to be a chillier day, particularly in the south, we have been used to temperatures in single figure for most. and as the temperatures fall away later in the day, it looks like fog could become a problem across central, northern and eastern england, so bear that in mind if you are heading out on the roads.
it won't last long, we think, though, because the winds start to pick up ahead of this weather system and then the fog will tend to lift. it will turn much wetter and windy by the end of the night across western areas. those temperatures also rising. but again, it will be quite a chilly one across the north and east of the uk. so a very different feel to the weather for boxing day. we're back to the unsettled theme, this area of low pressure bringing rain and strong winds, northern ireland, wales, south—west england, then pushing northwards and eastwards across the country through the day. could start quite chilly but dry across the north and the east, but the rain and wind will arrive. and, yes, the white there, we could see some transient snow over the higher ground of northern england and into the scottish mountains. those temperatures climbing to double figures in the south. but still quite chilly in the north and east. but as we head through the week to friday and indeed the weekend, it's set to turn much milder thanks to southerly winds, those temperatures close to the mid—teens celsius in places. merry christmas.
this is bbc news. the headlines: pope francis has ushered in christmas for more than a billion catholics by celebrating midnight mass at the vatican. alluding to the recent abuse, and financial scandals afflicting catholicism, the pontiff called on the faithful not to abandon god's love because of the church's failings. russian and turkish officials have been discussing how to stop an escalation of fighting in the syrian province of idlib. reports say five children are among the dead after a week—long offensive by syrian government forces in the mainly rebel—held province. the operation has caused tens of thousands of people to flee. critics say president trump's tough immigration policy is putting asylum seekers at risk. the mexican government says the new policies are risking the lives of asylu m policies are risking the lives of asylum seekers.