When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced three weeks ago that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem would be included in a national heritage restoration plan, many Palestinians saw decision as an intentional provocation. Netanyahu chose the week of the sixteenth anniversary of Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killing twenty-nine Palestinians as they prayed in the Il-Ibrahimi Mosque to make the announcement. Palestinian friends of CPT Hebron told team members they thought Netanyahu wished to incite anger and violence, which would in turn provide justification for military crackdowns and increased land seizures in the West Bank.
Israel also imposed closures throughout the Old City in Jerusalem this past week in preparation for an inauguration ceremony for the newly renovated Hurva synagogue. Palestinians see these renovations and future expansion as a serious threat to the neighboring Al Aqsa mosque. Clashes between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli military broke out in various areas around the Old City in Jerusalem. According to Ha’aretz newspaper, some forty Palestinian civilians and nine Israeli security officers were injured.
Anger spread throughout the West Bank and Hebron over Israeli actions in Jerusalem and Netanyahu’s pronouncements about Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque. On Tuesday, 16 March, Palestinian youth gathered in Hebron, shouting slogans and running down the main street leading into the Old City. The Palestinian Police attempted to disperse them but some youth began to throw stones in the direction of an Israeli military checkpoint. The Israeli military responded with percussion grenades and tear gas. Soldiers also arrested four boys, including a mentally challenged thirteen-year-old (see video clip at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW7OYLdHCW0.) More Palestinian Authority and Israeli military youth arrests occurred during Wednesday’s clashes. CPT received confirmation that most of the boys arrested were later released.
Some of CPT’s partners in Hebron see hope in the amount of planning and preparation they are witnessing for nonviolent demonstrations in response to Israel’s provocations. Responding to the issue of rising tensions throughout the West Bank, a Palestinian member of the CPT Al Khalil Advisory Council told CPT “We will resist Israeli attacks on our holy places. But we will resist peacefully, not with violence.”