The world welcomed the New Year with fireworks and prayers news

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Sydney and Auckland are the first major global cities to celebrate the arrival of 2024.

Sydney and Auckland are the first major global cities to welcome the arrival of 2024.

More than a million revelers rang in the New Year on Sunday night, lighting up the skies over Australia's Sydney Harbor and New Zealand's tallest building, Auckland's Sky Tower.

Light rain in Auckland all day cleared the city by midnight.

The countdown began against a flashing digital display at the top of the 328-meter (1,076-foot) communications and observation tower.

Fireworks over the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge as part of New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia [Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image/AP]

As the clock struck midnight in Australia's largest city, Sydney, a 12-minute fireworks display erupted around the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

More than a million people watched from boats on the beach and in the harbor.

The small Pacific island nations of Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati celebrated the New Year an hour earlier.

In Japan, temple bells rang across the country as people gathered at shrines and temples to welcome the new year.

At Tsukiji Temple in Tokyo, visitors were offered free hot milk and corn soup as they lined up to ring a large bell, and a pipe-organ concert was held in front of a majestic altar.

China celebrated the new calendar year relatively modestly, with fireworks banned in most major cities due to safety and pollution concerns.

During his New Year's address, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to focus on building momentum for economic recovery in 2024 and that China would “definitely reunify” with Taiwan.

There was an air of excitement in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, as revelers flocked to the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper for a fireworks display. The celebration extended to concerts and various events held throughout the city.

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New Year celebrations
People celebrate the New Year in Taipei, Taiwan on January 1, 2024 [Ann Wang/Reuters]

In India, thousands of fans from the financial hub of Mumbai flocked to a busy sidewalk to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, fireworks raised fears that the capital, plagued by poor air quality, could be shrouded in toxic smog on the New Year's morning.

The end of a tense year

The New Year's celebrations come against the backdrop of Israel's war on Gaza, which has raised tensions in some cities around the world, including Sydney, where more police than ever were deployed to oversee fireworks.

The waterfront has been the scene of heated pro-Palestinian protests since October 7 when the sails of the Sydney Opera House were lit up in the colors of the Israeli flag.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis reflected on 2023 as a year defined by the hardships of war.

In his regular Sunday blessing from a window overlooking St Peter's Square, he extended prayers for various peoples, including “the persecuted Ukrainian people and the Palestinian and Israeli people, the Sudanese people and many others”.

In Pakistan, the government has banned all New Year celebrations in solidarity with the Palestinians. In an overnight televised message, caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar urged Pakistanis to “show solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza” by starting the new year with simplicity.

Palestinians in Gaza say they do not hope 2024 will bring much relief after nearly three months of Israel's “genocidal” military campaign that has killed nearly 22,000 people.

In Rafah, on Egypt's border with Gaza, which has become the biggest focal point for Palestinians fleeing the rest of the enclave, people were more focused Sunday on finding shelter, food and water than thinking about the New Year.

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“In 2024, I want to go to the ruins of my house, set up a tent and live there,” said Abu Abdullah al-Agha, a middle-aged Palestinian man whose house in Khan Yunis was destroyed and he lost his young daughter-in-law. Son-in-law in Israeli airstrike.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on his countrymen
The future of their motherland should not be lost amid the ongoing war in the country.

“We Ukrainians know tomorrow better than anyone
It doesn't come by itself because we save our every day
Own hands,” he said in his video address on Sunday, which included his wife
Olena appeared with him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing an election in March, only mentioned the war in Ukraine in his New Year's address on Sunday, hailing his soldiers as heroes but mostly emphasizing unity and shared resolve.

Year-end celebrations in Russia, which usually include fireworks and concerts in Moscow's Red Square, have been canceled like last year.

Some local authorities across Russia canceled regular fireworks displays, including in Vladivostok, after a shelling in the center of the Russian border city of Belgorod killed 24 people on Saturday.

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