DECEMBER 31 - RAMALLAH, WEST BANK: A released Palestinian prisoner is embraced by his family, after Israel freed 26 prisoners in a gesture of goodwill between the two sides. The release was a step aimed at "resuming the diplomatic process," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said. Many of the prisoners have served sentences of 19-28 years for deadly attacks against Israelis.
DECEMBER 27 - NEGEV DESERT, ISRAEL: An Israeli AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim base, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva on December 26.
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Making of Pakistan —
DECEMBER 26 - KARACHI, PAKISTAN: A Pakistani cadet performs a drill during a ceremony on the 137th birth anniversary of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) at his mausoleum on December 25. Special ceremonies were also held in other parts of the country.
DECEMBER 23 - LIWA DESERT, ABU DHABI: Camels walk along sand dunes as the Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival takes place on December 22. The festival, which attracts participants from around the Gulf region, includes a camel beauty contest, a display of UAE handcrafts and other activities aimed at promoting the country's folklore.
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
Pink Christmas —
DECEMBER 20 - GAPYEONG, SOUTH KOREA: A couple pose under an illuminated tunnel to celebrate the coming Christmas and New Year at the Garden of Morning Calm. Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in South Korea.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
In a whirl —
DECEMBER 19 - ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Whirling dervishes perform at the Galata Mevlevihane (The Lodge of the Dervishes) on December 18. The dervishes are followers of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that preaches tolerance and a search for understanding. Those who whirl, like planets around the sun, turn dance into a form of prayer.
DECEMBER 17 - PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA : A military fly-past takes place above a statue of former South African president Nelson Mandela. The statue's unveiling at the Union Buildings in Pretoria marked the end of 10 days of mourning -- and celebrating -- the nation's anti-apartheid hero. Nelson Mandela died surrounded by his family on Thursday, December 5.
Oli Scarff/Getty Image
China on the moon —
DECEMBER 16 - BEIJING, CHINA: A woman browses an exhibit about the moon at the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing. China's first moon rover touched down on Saturday. The Jade Rabbit (called Yutu in Chinese) left deep traces on the lunar surface, as China became the third country in history to reach the moon.
AP Photo/Ng Han Gua
Little snowman —
DECEMBER 13 - BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON: A young Syrian refugee proudly presents his snowman to CNN's Christian Streib. Severe winter storms have only worsened conditions at makeshift refugee camps. 125,000 refugees are living in freezing conditions in tents in the Bekaa region, but many, like this little boy, are determined to make the best of the situation.
DECEMBER 11 - ST PETER'S SQUARE, VATICAN: Pope Francis, formerly Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is known as a humble man, a capable administrator and -- as is expected -- a person of great faith. The charismatic pontiff has been named Time magazine's person of the year. "The septuagenarian superstar is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century," Time said.
DECEMBER 9 - RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL: Newly-married couple Emmanuela and Romilda (lower right) kiss at what was billed as the world's largest communal gay wedding. One hundred and thirty couples were married at the event, held at the Court of Justice in downtown Rio. In May, Brazil became the third country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriage via a court ruling, but a final law is yet to be passed.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Celebrating Madiba —
DECEMBER 6 - JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Mourners sing, dance and cheer in tribute to Nelson Mandela. The revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died aged 95. Announcing his death, the country's president Jacob Zuma said: "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images
Into safety —
DECEMBER 5 - BOUEBOU, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Christian children are packed in the trunk of a taxi to be protected from sectarian conflicts in their country. The U.N. security council meets today to discuss the deployment of international troops in order to protect civilians. Experts believe this "could save the C.A.R. from becoming the next Rwanda."
DECEMBER 3 - BANGKOK, THAILAND: A Buddhist monk raises his hands to policemen in Bangkok. Tensions in the capital eased after police took down barricades and allowed anti-government demonstrators to enter the government buildings. Policemen shook hands with demonstrators, ushering them past. Protesters responded with cheers and applause, claiming victory.
AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn
The light of Hanukkah —
DECEMBER 2 - JERUSALEM: An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man and his child light candles on the fifth night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of light. The holiday commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians and the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem around 165 BC after the Greek King of Syria outlawed Jewish rituals.