The Cordoba stairwell in Hebron.
(photo credit: ISSA AMRO)
The High Court of Justice upheld the IDF closure on the Cordoba stairwell in Hebron that had been primarily used as a shortcut by Palestinian residents of the West Bank city.
The ban was put in place in 2015 after a civilian and a solider were injured in a stabbing by the stairwell, which is located right across the street from the Jewish apartment complex of Beit Hadassah.
The IDF has said that the ban is necessary for security reasons. The Cordoba stairwell is located in an area of the city under Israeli military control.
The only exception to the ban are the Palestinian school children who use the stairwell to get to the Cordoba school and Palestinians who live by the stairwell.
Earlier this year, known Hebron activist Issa Amro, who lives by the stairwell but was not exempted from the ban, filed a petition to the High Court of Justice along with left-wing Israeli NGO the Association of Civil Rights in Israel.
They argued that the restrictions placed an undue hardship on area residents, particularly those who live by the stairwell and who are now forced to take a lengthy detour.
“We accept the argument that restricting movement on the stairs contributes to the security of the area, so that there is a rational connection between the violation of freedom of movement and the public interest,” the court said in its ruling.
The decision was impacted, the judges said, by the fact that the ban applied to Israeli and Palestinian residents of the city as well as foreigners, “without making any distinction” among them.
It added that the security situation in Hebron, particularly the friction among the civilians living there, was very complex and created unique scenarios.
“In the existing reality, there is no cause for intervention” by the court in the IDF’s decision. It added that there was room for individual appeals to be included on the list of those exempted from the ban.
Association of Civil Rights in Israel attorney Roni Pelli said in response that the judges had upheld a “discrimination policy.” She noted that the stairwell was only one example of restricted Palestinian movement in Hebron. There are entire streets that are closed to Palestinians there for security reasons, she said.
The High Court has not given the Palestinians “assistance” or a “sympathetic ear,” Pelli said.
The Hebron Jewish community has long argued that its freedom of movement is more limited, because its 1,000 residents can only move about in the 20% of the city that is under Israeli military control. Palestinians, in contrast, can access both sections of the divided city, included the 80% under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
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