Clashes in Hebron over heritage list

February 23, 2010 03:42

PA official calls Israeli decision ‘very dangerous.’

2 minute read.

Palestinian hurls molotov cocktail in Hebron

palestinian molotov 311. (photo credit: AP)

Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at IDF soldiers in Hebron Monday in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inclusion the day before of the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city to the government’s list of national heritage sites.

The move also drew sharp protest from the Palestinian Authority, its chief negotiator Saeb Erekat as well as the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Robert H. Serry.

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Palestinians believe that Hebron, as well as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, which was also added to the list at the last moment, are areas of the West Bank that will be part of their state.

Settlers in turn have argued that these are two of the most ancient and historic Jewish sites and that politics should not be a consideration in marking them for preservation.

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib, however, warned that the inclusion of the sites on the list could take the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a dangerous direction.

“We believe that this particular violation is very dangerous because it might add to the religious nature of the conflict,” Khatib said.

In the Israeli area of Hebron on Monday Palestinians closed their shops and sporadically pelted soldiers with rocket and bottles. They also burned tires.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and stun grenades. The Army said no injuries among soldiers were reported. Palestinians said three protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation.

By midday, the incident was over, the IDF said.

Hebron’s Jewish community, Noam Arnon, posted a video on its Web site, which stated that “the tombs of the patriarchs and the matriarchs are a historical site beginning in the time of the bible and Abraham some 4,000 years [ago]. From then on, this is the first Jewish site in the world. The building above the cave was built here 2,000 years ago in the time of the Kingdom of Judea, hundreds of years before Islam existed.”

On Monday, however, Erekat said that the “unilateral decision to make Palestinian sites in Hebron and Bethlehem part of Israel shows there is no genuine partner for peace, but an occupying power intent on consolidating Palestinian lands.”

Serry said that “these sites are in occupied Palestinian territory and are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well. I urge 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.”

He added that he “would like to see more positive steps by Israel to enable Palestinian development and state-building in the area and throughout the West Bank, reflecting a genuine commitment to the two State solution.”

AP contributed to this report.

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