Monday, November 30, 2020

Palestinians mark anniversary of Ibrahimi mosque massacre

By Sarah Bedson - February 27, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Hebron]

Hebron - Hundreds of Palestinians and internationals took to the streets of the Old City of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank last Friday in a march to commemorate the 23-year anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre. On February 25, 1994 American-born far-right Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinians and injuring 125 others.

Following the massacre, rather than providing Palestinians with protection from settler violence, the Israeli military began implementing a system of ever-increasing restrictions, closures, and separations that subjugate and constrain Palestinian life.

The Ibrahimi mosque itself was divided, with Muslim access reduced from the entire space to around 40% of the site. The other 60% was allocated to Jewish worshippers, who access the site from a separate entrance.

Parts of the city were closed off to Palestinian residents, including the economic centre of Shuhada Street and permanently staffed military checkpoints were built throughout the city. 23 years later, Shuhada Street remains a virtual ghost town.

In 1997, Hebron was divided into “H1” and “H2” zones with “H1” under Palestinian Authority control and “H2” under Israeli military control. The approximately 30,000 Palestinians in “H1” face checkpoints, harassment, attacks by settlers and soldiers and severe restrictions in their freedom of movement while around 800 illegal Jewish settlers in “H1” enjoy free movement and protection from the Israeli military. They are known for being of the most vicious, ideologically extreme, and heavily armed of the entire settler movement.

Friday’s march marked the end of two weeks of protest actions in Hebron and internationally, all of which were calling to re-open Shuhada Street.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative attended the march and told Palestine Monitor: “Hebron represents graphically the system of apartheid that Israel has created. We want to bring down occupation and apartheid and we want to bring freedom to our people. We believe we have to change the balance of power through popular struggle and through the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign.”

Demonstrators set off at noon from the al-Sheikh neighbourhood and headed towards Shalala Street near Shuhada Street.

Mere minutes into the march, the peaceful protestors were met by a barricade of Israeli soldiers and border police, who immediately began shooting tear gas at the crowd. Medics on the scene reported several cases of suffocation.

A number of youths stayed behind to respond to the soldiers by throwing stones. The clashes continued for hours.

After Israeli forces suppressed the march, tens of protesters reconvened and threw shoes at a poster of US President Donald Trump at the entrance of Shuhada Street as a symbol of “Palestinians' rejection of him and his bias towards Israeli settlers,” according to Issa Amro, founder of Youth Against Settlements and organiser of the Open Shuhada Street campaign. Reporting on the day’s demonstration, Issa said “They shot tear gas directly at the protestors. We were so peaceful but they used tear gas, sound bombs and skunk water directly.”

Hisham Sharbati from the Hebron Defence Committee helped to organise the “Dismantle the Ghetto” campaign. “Today we raise our voices against the Israeli policies inside Hebron that aim to kick the Palestinians out of their own city,” he told Palestine Monitor. “They want to uproot them. We consider this a kind of ethnic cleansing policy of which the Palestinian population is targeted, aiming to replace them with Israeli colonisers.”

On the eve of the march, Israeli forces raided the homes of two activists and threatened them not to attend the march. One of them, Anan Dana is a member of the Hebron Defence Committee. “Despite all the threats, we are continuing our legal and legitimate struggle. Our activities are non-violent and legal under international law. We continue our commitment to our goals. We are still here and will continue to be here. We will continue raising our voices against the Israeli policies and taking the message of our people to the world,” Anan said.


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