Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, 31st July 2016, Israeli forces in the Old City souq, the Palestinian market, of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), were searching for a group of three Palestinian boys. Claiming they were throwing stones, Israeli forces were searching for them in order to arrest and incarcerate them.
A group of Israeli soldiers went into the Palestinian market in search for the children they claimed were throwing stones, stopping any child they encountered on their way, that more or less fit the age-group of around 10-14 years old. They stopped and questioned a 12-year old boy at Bab al-Baladiyya, one of the entrance and exit-points for the soldiers to enter from the illegal settlements located on Shuhada Street into the Palestinian market. Without any family or a lawyer present, the soldiers questioned the boy, first claiming that he was throwing stones and threatening to arrest him and take him to the police station. Only because of the intervention of a local, the boy wasn’t kidnapped by the Israeli forces, which eventually admitted that the video-evidence they have does not even show him. Still, they claimed that he was there and thus were attempting to force him into giving information.
After they finally allowed the boy to leave, they arbitrarily stopped any child that fit their age group to question them about their whereabouts and where they were going, even entering a Palestinian shop to interrogate a child. After about half an hour, they gave up their search, but approached human rights observers to ‘justify’ their behaviour, showing them a video on a phone that showed a boy throwing small stones, at a securely fenced military tower, without any possibility of the pebbles even hurting anyone. Despite only one boy throwing these small stones, Israeli forces were out looking for all the three children in the video. Israeli forces ‘justified’ their search for the children to the human rights observers, stating that because of what can be seen in the video, they went out to look for ‘a boy in a white T-Shirt’ – despite the boy in the video clearly wearing a green T-Shirt. In spite of both these facts, they stopped and interrogated any child loosely fitting the age-group of around 10-14.
In the evening, Israeli forces again entered the market, to stop, harass and question children fitting this age-group, and another arrest of an arbitrarily picked child could only be prevented by the intervention of a local.
The fact that the arrest of any children under the age of 12 is illegal even under Israeli military law that applies to all Palestinians in the West Bank, did not bother the Israeli forces. Despite the boy in the video clearly being less than 12 years old, they went out to hunt down children that are below the legal age for arrest even under the apartheid military law, the orders in clear violation of not only international law, but even the racist and apartheid Israeli military law.
Once again, Israel is exerting a great deal of effort in order to prevent discussion of an EU paper among European institutions. The internal report, which was drafted in December 2015 and then endorsed by all EU member states, attributes the development of the Jerusalem Intifada (Uprising) to “Israel’s occupation”. It included reference to the living conditions of Palestinian citizens and the failure to implement the two-state paradigm.
The EU Observer, which has seen the 39-page report, has stated that the document is intended as a reference for EU foreign ministers and “for proposals put forward by the EU Foreign Service.”
While having a dearth of facts, the report is not lacking in the kind of contradictions that mark the constant cycle of condemnation and appeasement of Israel at the expense of withholding Palestinian narratives. The Jerusalem Post has deemed the EU document to be veering away from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Israel and the rest of the world are facing the same terror threats. Rhetorically, the EU has distanced itself from Netanyahu’s sweeping statements that generalise every terrorist incident in order to normalise state violence against Palestinian resistance. Nevertheless, as on other occasions, the EU has devised its own strategies which uphold Israel’s narrative at a regional and international level.
The report is ambiguous in the extreme. “Some Palestinian perpetrators of individual attacks,” it explains, “have apparently been shot and killed in situations where they no longer pose a threat.” Despite Netanyahu himself publicly endorsing such extrajudicial killings, the EU has preferred to subjugate the facts to hypotheses through the use of terminology like “apparently”, “appeared” and “possibly amounting in certain cases to unlawful killings.” By not condemning such unlawful killing explicitly, the discourse suggests the EU’s tacit approval of Israeli state and settler violence. This is illustrated further in the report’s standard equivalence clause that “both sides” have indulged in “inflammatory rhetoric”, thus negating the fact that Palestinian resistance is a legitimate response to illegal Israeli colonial violence.
EU Foreign Relations chief Federica Mogherini has opposed the proposal that “known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence” should be placed under EU visa bans. According to Mogherini: “There’s currently no question of sanctioning anybody. The question is rather how to motivate people to… restart peace talks.” Such leniency works in concordance with Israeli policy towards settler terrorists who are mostly shielded by the colonial state, enabling them to act with impunity.
Perhaps the most incriminating evidence of support for Israeli colonisation is the recommendation that the EU develops “further guidelines that differentiate between Israel and its illegal settlements,” according to the EU Observer. This distinction has been of interminable benefit to Israel and its implications are many, including the refusal to recognise the fact that Israel is a colonial entity and that its manifestation is contrary to the principles enshrined in international law. Referring to Israel as the “occupying power” without any reference to colonisation in effect absolves both Israel and the international community of accountability when it comes to recognising the Palestinian right to resistance and liberation. Unless this anomaly is rectified, all reports issued by the EU will be inherently biased towards Israel, regardless of the content. To treat colonial expansion as a recent phenomenon is a transgression of truth and an impediment to Palestinian struggle, although that is, after all, the apparent international intent behind such blatant deception.
Deir Qaddis, Occupied Palestine – On the morning of July 14th, Israeli excavators arrived on Majid Mahmoud’s farmland in Deir Qaddis to begin work on an illegal expansion of a wastewater facility for the nearby illegal settlement of Nili.
Construction vehicles and Occupation forces were met by about fifty Palestinians from Deir Qaddis and nearby Nil’in in protest of the theft and destruction of village land, who refused to leave until the construction was halted. Through nonviolent means the villagers managed to temporarily prevent the destruction of their grazing lands, though excavation and land clearing did resume in the days afterwards. Illegal settlements around Deir Qaddis have been expanding for decades, swallowing up thousands of dunams and dispossessing farmers and agricultural workers in the area.
Majid’s land, now on the other side of a settler road, has been rendered mostly inaccessible by both the expansion of illegal settlements and the threat of violence from Israeli forces and private settlement security.
“We have no rights under this Occupation. I cannot ask the soldiers why they are on my land. It is as if I am being beaten, but cannot question it or raise my hands to stop it,” Majid said. “We have all the papers to prove ownership, but it does not matter.”
Majid and members of the local council are planning to bring the case to court and have all the documentation necessary to do so. They are not optimistic, however, about their chances.
Though the people of Deir Qaddis did succeed in halting the illegal construction on Thursday, it has since resumed. Fares Naser, mayor of the village, has little confidence that the settlement expansion and illegal construction will ever end. “It will not stop,” said Fares, “and the next generation will wonder why it is this way.”
Deir Qaddis is surrounded on three sides by the Apartheid Wall and the illegal Israeli settlements of Nili, Modi’in Illit, and Na’aleh, cutting it off from much of the West Bank. According to Fares, only 4,000 of the village’s original 10,000 dunams have not yet been seized by Israeli forces and settlers. Over ninety percent of the Deir Qaddis is classified as “Area C,” territory in which Israel maintains full military and civil control.
In 1999, Israeli authorities assured the people of Deir Qaddis that all land lying west of the town would remain untouched. Israel has since broken that promise, with both state confiscation and private theft of valuable farmland within Deir Qaddis. According to international law, all Israeli settlements are illegal, as is nearly every piece of the Israeli colonial apparatus. Israel will continue to build, and the people of Deir Qaddis will continue to resist the ongoing theft of their land and livelihoods.
On Sunday the Israeli Cabinet approved the expansion of several Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, adding an additional 800 new units to the existing thousands of units constructed in Jewish-only settlements in direct contravention of international law.
Israeli officials say that the approval of 800 new housing units is meant to somehow ‘balance’ the implementation of a court ruling that 600 construction permits be approved for Palestinian families in Beit Safafa.
But while the Israeli officials may have political reasons for making such a claim, Palestinian analysts point out that there is no legal justification or comparison between the court decision about Beit Safafa and the announcement Sunday of the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements constructed on illegally-seized Palestinian land.
In the case involving Beit Safafa, an Israeli court ruled last month that the Israeli government had provided no sufficient evidence to back its claim that the Palestinian residents’ building permit applications should be denied, and ordered that construction could begin. But the Israeli government has, for the past month, prevented the court decision from being implemented.
The announcement Sunday that 800 new settlement units would be constructed in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank colonial settlement of Ma’ale Adumim came just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved the expansion of another colonial settlement in Hebron by 42 additional units.
All Israeli settlements constructed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, as they involve the direct transfer of Israel’s civilian population into areas seized by military force.
But the Israeli government considers many of these colonial settlements to be ‘legal’ under Israeli law, and provides infrastructure including water, sewage, electricity, policing and fire services to the majority of the hundreds of settlements that have been constructed on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In the case of Beit Safafa, the Israeli government had put together a plan to completely encircle the Palestinian town with several Jewish-only settlements, thus cutting off the town from the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The plan had involved the expansion of a small trailer park currently housing Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, on a hilltop in Beit Safafa. The trailer park, dubbed ‘Givat HaMatos’, was slated for massive expansion by the Israeli government until Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa took the government to court to challenge the expansion.
In a surprise victory a month ago, the Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa won their court battle. but the Israeli government failed to implement the decision before now.
Upon the announcement that the court’s decision would be carried out, the Israeli Minister for Jerusalem, Ze’ev Elkin, stated, “Anyone who is concerned about the Jewish majority in Israel’s capital cannot push a building plan just for Arabs [in Givat HaMatos]… You cannot just approve construction for Arabs in Givat HaMatos without also approving at the same time building for Jews in the same planned neighborhood.”
The plan to encircle Beit Safafa, while currently under scrutiny by international media and bodies, is just one part of the larger E1 Jerusalem plan, which would encircle East Jerusalem, kick out most of its Palestinian residents, and claim all the ‘conquered’ territory for the state of Israel. The plan was first introduced in the early 2000s, and has expanded since then.
Occupied Hebron – In the last three days Israeli military forces have implemented several blockades isolating the cities of Yatta and Bani Na’im south of Hebron. It is reported that cement roadblocks, earth mounds, gates and checkpoints have been installed across the region, with no timeline for when they may be removed.
The blockades are only implemented to restrict the movement of Palestinians as illegal Israeli settlers can still pass the checkpoints. This discrimination is a clear apartheid strategy and limits Palestinians to not only being unable to attend work but also reaching basic human services such as hospitals. This strategy clearly violates Palestinian’s right to freedom of movement (Art.13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
By enforcing these illegal blockades Israel is also restricting Palestinian movement during the final days of the holy month of Ramadan where thousands of Muslims wish to travel to the most significant religious sites for prayer and visit their families.
This act is also another example of Israel using collective punishment techniques, which are also illegal under international law. Israeli forces continually use collective punishment in the form of revoking travel and work permits, blockading cities and punitive house demolitions.
The innocent people who are living under siege in Yatta and Bani Na’im are significantly impacted by the Israeli forces implementing such blockades, which have been condemned internationally by human rights organisations and NGOs.
On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finished his farewell trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. He is due to step down in December and used the occasion to urge some political will for a two-state solution as “the only way to meet the national aspirations of both peoples.” Ban also criticised the blockade of Gaza which, he said, “Suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts.” Interestingly, he added that it is “collective punishment for which there must be accountability.”
Speaking in Ramallah, the UN chief expressed an understanding of Palestinian frustration: “I’m aware that many Palestinians question the feasibility of reaching a just and lasting peace with Israel. They hear talk of peace but they see violence. They still live a life of checkpoints, permits, blockade, demolitions and profound economic hardships faced with growing indignities and the humiliating occupation that will soon enter its 50th year.”
During his time as Secretary General, Ban has condemned the status quo verbally but the organisation he leads has failed to take concrete action. Under his tenure, Gaza has been strangled by a tight blockade and its residents have witnessed three major Israeli offensives. In over half of his time at the top of the UN, the West Bank settler population has grown by 23 per cent (from the beginning of 2009 until the beginning of 2014), and at least two rounds of direct talks have failed. In 2014, more Palestinians were killed by Israel than in any other year since 1967. Violence and fatalities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, meanwhile, were at their highest since the beginning of his tenure in 2007.
Following the most recent Israeli war against Gaza in 2014, a UN inquiry found that Israel was responsible for striking seven official sites used by the organisation as civilian shelters, during which 44 Palestinians were killed and 227 others were injured. Releasing the report, Ban condemned the attacks “as a matter of the utmost gravity.” He noted that it was the second time during his tenure as secretary general that he had been obliged to establish a board of inquiry into incidents involving UN premises and personnel in Gaza that have occurred during the course of “tragic conflicts” in the Gaza Strip. Concerning the children killed in the war, he commented during an earlier visit, “I met so many of the beautiful children of Gaza. More than 500 were killed in the fighting – many more were wounded. What did they do wrong? Being born in Gaza is not a crime.”
However, his inaction during the conflict forced 129 organisations and distinguished individuals to sign an open letter to him. “Until today,” they wrote, “you have taken no explicit and tangible measures to address the recent Israeli attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories since 13 June. Moreover, your statements have been either misleading, because they endorse and further Israeli false versions of facts, or contrary to the provisions established by international law and to the interests of its defenders, or because your words justify Israel’s violations and crimes.”
The number of Palestinian children killed during the 2014 war led to efforts to include the Israel Defence Forces on a UN list of serious violators of children’s rights. However, while the UN chief should have supported that inclusion made by Leila Zerrougui, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict, he didn’t. He was accused of caving into pressure and omitting the Israeli military from the list. UN sources described the decision to override Zerrougui’s recommendation as “unusual”, while Human Rights Watch called it “a blow to UN efforts to better protect children in armed conflict.”
On his farewell visit to Gaza, Ban Ki- Moon told residents that, “The UN will always be with you.” As the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the 2014 Gaza war draws near, most of the 11,000 homes destroyed and 6,800 severely damaged or rendered uninhabitable remain in ruins, largely as a result of the Israeli-led blockade. As his time as UN leader comes to a close, the Palestinians will be hoping that his successor will give them more than words.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli settlers from the illegal Beitar Illit settlement raided Palestinian lands in the village of Wadi Fukin in the central occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Tuesday, according to local witnesses.
Ahmad Sukkar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council, told Ma’an that a group of Israeli settlers raided agricultural lands in the al-Fuwwar area of the village, destroying two greenhouses and tearing up plants belonging to Maher Sukkar, Jamil Assaf, and Muhammad Manasra.
Sukkar also said the Israeli settlers uprooted the plants of Muhammad Saleh Manasra and Naim Daoud Attiyeh, before spray-painting “Death to Arabs” on their property.
Israeli settlers from the illegal Beitar Illit settlement, which has been built on private Palestinian lands belonging to the villages of Husan, Nahalin, and Wadi Fukin, commonly raid the communities and destroy Palestinian property.
Beitar Illit is one of several settlements that comprise what Israel refers to as the “Gush Etzion” settlement bloc, which Israel plans to illegally annex into its territory, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ).
According to ARIJ, Israel’s plans of incorporating the Gush Etzion settlement bloc into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem — boundaries that Israel continuously redefines in order to annex land further into Palestinian territory — parallels with Israel’s objectives of reshaping the demographics of the city by lowering the Palestinian population to 20 percent, and filling in the rest with Jewish Israelis.
Local Palestinians often attribute settler attacks on Palestinian communities — 51 of which have been reported since the start of this year, according to UN documentation — to Israel’s larger goals of depopulating Palestinian villages near settlements by scaring Palestinians into leaving their lands in an attempt to make room for the expansion or connection of the illegal settlement blocs.
While the Israeli government does not make Israeli settler population statistics public, most rights groups agree that some 600,000 settlers reside in Israeli settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem — all of which are considered illegal under international law.
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian family’s home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shufat early on Wednesday morning, marking the second time the al-Hawarin family saw their home destroyed in 15 years.
“The occupation is stealing our dreams, depriving us of living safely in our own homes,” Nadia al-Hawarin told Ma’an as she looked at the ruins of her home.
Al-Hawarin added that Israeli forces had demolished the family’s former home in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in 2001, under the pretext that it was built without a license from the Israeli municipality.
“Today, they demolished our house in Shufat for the sake of a road serving settlers,” she said. “The occupation demolished our home to serve the settlers, paying no attention to the fact that eight family members will become homeless.”
Al-Hawarin said that Israeli forces demolished a house belonging to al-Rishiq family in the same area in January, displacing dozens in order to build a road to benefit Israeli settlers in the area.
Al-Hawarin’s husband, Rajih al-Hawarin, said in a filmed interview with Ma’an that a large number of Israeli troops stormed the house at dawn and started to tear down the building.
He said that the house had been built in 2001 following the demolition of the family’s Beit Hanina home.
Before he started to build in Shufat, Rajih al-Hawarin said he had applied for a construction license and obtained initial approval.
“Then I was taken by surprise in 2002, when the application was suspended under the pretext that the area had been rezoned to build a new road connecting the illegal Ramat Shlomo and Pisgat Zeev settlements,” he added.
Rajih al-Hawarin added that the Jerusalem municipality handed him a first demolition order in 2012, and that he had submitted several appeals, to no avail.
East Jerusalem was seized by Israel along with the West Bank in 1967 during the Six-Day War, and since then, the Israeli government has undertaken a policy of “Judaization” across the city, constructing Jewish settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes.
There are upwards of 500,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention to international law.
A study by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department reported more than 3,000 Palestinian structures demolished in East Jerusalem since 1967.
According to rights group Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Israeli government issues building permits in line with discriminatory state policy enacted to increase the Jewish population, while neglecting local Palestinians.
Only 14 percent of East Jerusalem land is zoned for Palestinian residential construction, while one-third of Palestinian land has been confiscated since 1967 to build illegal Jewish-only settlements, ACRI documented.
In January, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved recommendations for the “enforcement of regulations” in occupied East Jerusalem, in what Israeli daily Haaretz reported would likely prioritize the demolitions of Palestinian homes.
The daily reported that the new recommendations could expedite the demolition of around some 50,000 houses in Palestinian communities in Israel and Jerusalem.
HEBRON – A group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian woman and her child late Friday night during an incursion into a home in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron’s Old City in the southern occupied West Bank.
Emad Abu Shamsiya, a coordinator for Human Rights Defenders, told Ma’an settlers attacked the house of Riyad Abu Hazza and beat his wife as settlers sprayed his daughter with pepper spray and caused her to faint.
Upon hearing the commotion, a group of volunteers rushed to the house to help fend off the settlers and provide first aid to Abu Hazza’s wife and child, Abu Shamsiya said.
Jawad Abu Aisheh, a coordinator for the Hebron-based group Youth Against Settlements, said the assault occurred after a weekly settler march took place in the city — usually held on Fridays or Saturdays — where Israeli settlers chant anti-arab slogans, such as “Death to Arabs,” or “Gas the Arabs,” as they harass Palestinians and damage their properties.
Abu Aisheh told Ma’an that the near daily settler attacks are only pieces of a much larger scheme of Israeli settlers attempting to push Palestinians out of the neighborhoods by creating an environment where they must constantly live in fear.
Israeli forces declared the area of Tel Rumeida a “closed military zone” in late October, and has since renewed the military order every month, only allowing Palestinian residents of the area with Israeli-issued identification numbers to enter.
However, according to Abu Aisheh, tomorrow is expected to be the last day of the closed military zone as families in the area have not yet received another military decree.
Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in the 1990s after a US-born Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque.
Tel Rumeida is located within the area of the city designated as H2, an area taking over the bulk of the Old City that is under full Israeli military control, and the site of five illegal Israeli settlements that continually expand into the neighborhoods of the more than 6,000 Palestinians who reside within the Israeli-controlled area.
The several hundred Israeli settlers who illegally reside in Hebron have made attacks on Palestinians and their properties an almost daily occurrence for several decades.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been a total of 30 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the start of 2016, and a total of 221 attacks in 2015.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – During this week’s ‘Pessach’ celebrations from 22nd to 29th April, Israeli settlers and Israeli forces throughout occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) have been taking over Palestinians houses, rooftops, streets and entire areas while denying passage for Palestinians.
Last Friday night, with the start of the ‘holiday’, large groups of settlers were going from the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil, towards the Ibrahimi mosque, 60% of which has been taken over by the settlers that installed a ‘synagogue’ following the 1994 Ibrahimi mosque massacre; while Palestinians were stopped, frisked and delayed.
On Monday and Tuesday, Palestinians’ movement was entirely restricted and H2 was completely void of any Palestinian presence in order to facilitate the settler’s freedom of movement and to enable a space for the main ‘Pessach celebrations’. During these two days the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi mosque has remained closed, thus closing off the main entrance for Palestinians heading to the mosque. Palestinians were entirely barred from entering the mosque during these two days, while settlers used the additional 40% of the mosque that has so far remained for Palestinians – with the ‘usual’ entry restrictions and harassment by Israeli forces.
While bus loads of settlers from all over Palestine are arriving in the Old City of al-Khalil, new barricades, entry and movement restrictions for Palestinians are springing up throughout the city. Al-Faiha’a girls school, right opposite the parking lot used for the settler only buses, has been forced to finish early in order to at least attempt to provide a safe way home for the girls, despite the heavy army and settler presence. During Monday and Tuesday, a sharp decrease in the number of girls attending school was noted by both the teachers and international human rights defenders offering protective presence. Israeli forces have also taken control of two shops right next to the school building and turned it into a military base.
On Monday, Israeli forces escorted endless groups of settlers on a ‘tour’ through the main Palestinian market in the Old City during the busy noon hours – blocking the narrow alleyways while giving a Zionist version of the history of the city. Palestinians were stopped and forced to wait for the tours to pass. One Palestinian man was arrested while another one was seriously injured when settlers threw a rock into the Palestinian market hitting him right on the head.
Despite the area behind Shuhada checkpoint being H1 and thus supposedly under full Palestinian control, Israeli forces on Tuesday brought large groups of settlers, after ‘clearing’ the area for bombs, in a sheer show of their power and in total disregard of any (international) agreement. Shuhada checkpoint has during the ‘holiday’ season seen repeated and arbitrary delays, causing Palestinians to wait for, at times, hours to be allowed to go to their homes located in the ‘closed military zone’ while settlers were freely roaming the streets and could be seen from the checkpoint chit-chatting with the soldiers.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian shop owners were forced to close their storefronts in Hebron Tuesday as Israeli politicians called for the annexation of the occupied city during visits by thousands of right-wingers for Passover.
Hebron local and prominent activist Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli forces instructed shopkeepers in both the H1 and H2 areas of Hebron to remain closed.
Amro said that by forcing shops to close in H1 — the area of the city under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority — the Israeli authorities were supporting right-wing Israelis aiming to push Palestinian locals from the city.
“They want to make it look [to Israeli settlers] like Palestinians don’t live here,” Amro said.
The closures of shops in H1 is likely to come as a detriment to shop owners’ livelihoods while road closures typically implemented by Israeli forces during the visits will impede the movement of Palestinians throughout the Hebron district, Amro added.
The H2 area, under full Israeli military control, continued under lockdown as the Ibrahimi Mosque — known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs — was sealed to Palestinian Muslims for the second consecutive day as Israelis visited holy sites in and around the Old City, Amro said.
Amro told Ma’an that large groups of Israelis visiting the area under armed protection on Monday launched verbal abuse at Palestinian locals, and several Palestinian families refused to leave their homes out of fear of violence from the groups.
An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on increased security measures or closure in the Hebron area for Passover.
Thousands of Israelis descended on Hebron’s Old City Monday as Israeli politicians held a rally in the center of the flashpoint area, under heavy protection by Israeli security forces.
Israeli media outlets reported that Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Habayit HaYehudi party called on the Israeli leadership to annex the occupied West Bank in its entirety.
“We have to connect Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it,” Ben-Dahan said, referring to the West Bank.
Knesset member Oren Hazan, of the Likud party, demanded Israel’s defense ministry allow more Jewish Israelis to settle in Hebron, referring specifically to two buildings reportedly purchased by far-right groups.
“The buildings in Hebron are the basis of peace, not dispute. The time has come to populate Hebron, just as the time has come to populate every hilltop in Judea and Samaria and in all of Israel,” the Jerusalem Post reported Hazan as saying.
Hebron — the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank — has long stood at the epicenter of violence in the occupied West Bank as the Israeli military and settlers attempt to expel Palestinians from their homes, particularly in the Old City where Monday’s rally took place.
The Israeli leadership has long ignored demands by the international community to halt settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, and the UN has in the past slammed Israel for expansion of settlements in Hebron’s Old City in particular, where increased Jewish presence has come at the detriment to Palestinian locals.
Emily Mulder contributed reporting from Bethlehem.