Muslims are being denied access to Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque for six days over September to make way for Israeli settlers celebrating the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur.
The restricted access, which began last week, will continue on Wednesday, along with September 29 and 30, said Munther Abul-Feelat, the head of the mosque. Only Jews are being allowed to enter the mosque on those dates, with the Israeli army claiming it is for the settlers’ security.
Simultaneously, extra “security precautions” are being taken by the army as Jewish tourists flood the Israeli-occupied southern West Bank city.
These measures are placing more restrictions on Palestinians and increasing friction between the minority Jewish settlers and the majority Palestinian residents in the Old City, raising fears of violence
Israeli rights group B’tselem says Israel’s law-enforcement authorities and security forces have made the Palestinian population suffer in the process of protecting Israeli settlements in Hebron.
According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “The IDF [Israeli army’s] security measures to protect Hebron’s settlements from Palestinian attacks, together with violent settler activity, have led to a critical humanitarian and economic situation for the Palestinian population, once the centre of Hebron’s commercial and cultural life.”
Issa Amro from the Hebron-based Palestinian organisation, Youth Against Settlements, said that during the Jewish holidays, the situation in the Old City gets particularly grim for Palestinian residents.
“Most people associate holidays with a time of joy,” Amro told Al Jazeera. “But for Palestinians in Hebron, the Jewish holidays mean Israeli soldiers occupying rooftops and homes, more restrictions on movement, children unable to reach their schools, further economic decline, violence and fear.
“The soldiers stop young men regularly to check their IDs – but when they’ve been held for several hours in the sun or rain, and the young men complain, they get beaten up,” Amro added.
Hebron’s Old City today is largely a ghost town. Over the years, thousands of Palestinians have been forced to leave their homes and close down their businesses to make way for the settlers – considered some of the most extreme in the occupied West Bank