AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Netanyahu statement on Ibrahimi Mosque leads to unrest
On 21 February 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the Israeli government's intention to designate as Jewish heritage sites Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron). Netanyahuâ€™s statement has led to considerable concern and outrage in the Palestinian community. The Ibrahimi Mosque is one of the most important Muslim sites, and is the one most accessible to West Bank Palestinians. The prospect of these sites becoming closed to Muslim worshippers has aroused special fear and anger in Al-Khalil (Hebron) where the Ibrahimi Mosque because it draws large numbers of Muslim worshippers and because it was the site of the 25 February 1994 massacre of twenty-nine Muslim worshippers by Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein.
Robert Serry, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he was concerned by Israel's announcement regarding the Hebron holy site. â€śI call on Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations, the resumption of which should be the highest shared priority of all who seek peace,â€ť he said.
To protest Netanyahuâ€™s statement, Palestinians declared a general strike on 22 February 2010 in Al-Khalil (Hebron). The strike meant that most children did not go to school, and around 8:30 a.m., Palestinian boys made their own response to the statement by throwing stones near the Qitoun checkpoint at Yatta Road, while other Palestinians threw stones at soldiers between Bab il Baledeyya and Bab iZaweyya. Press reports suggested that Palestinians threw bottles also, but CPTers saw nothing thrown besides stones. The Israeli military responded by shooting repeated rounds of tear gas at the Palestinians, causing alarm and discomfort to people on the street and in their homes and shops.
In the Bab iZaweyya area (by the H1/H2 border) CPTers Fathiyeh Gainey and Sam Nichols observed Palestinian policemen work to move the crowd away and the action stopped there around 1O: 45 a.m. CPTers Nina Chiba and Maureen Jack monitored the action near the Qitoun checkpoint, which lasted until 11:30.
On Thursday 25 February 2010, Hebronites, supported by Israeli and international friends, will mark the anniversary of the mosque massacre with a nonviolent demonstration calling for the opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians. At 5:00 a.m. that same day, Hebronites will worship at the Ibrahimi Mosque in memory of those who died in the massacre.
Photographs of the Yatta Road incident can be seen at http://cpt.org/gallery/22-February-2010-Unrest-in-Hebron-following-Netanyahus-statement-on-Ibrahimi-Mosque