Palestinian Cabinet meeting in Hebron

Move aimed at protesting Israel's addition of shrine to list of heritage sites.

By AP,
March 1, 2010 11:32
1 minute read.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

fayyad 311. (photo credit: AP)

The Palestinian Cabinet moved its weekly meeting to Hebron on Monday in a symbolic act against Israel's addition of a contested shrine in this volatile West Bank city to its list of national heritage sites.

Israelis and Palestinians have clashed frequently in the past over the two shrines added to the heritage list, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas portrayed Israel's move as an "attack on the holy places," and his Islamic militant Hamas rivals in Gaza called for a new uprising.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has tried to calm the recent tensions, saying that Israel's plan was to protect the holy sites and had no intention of infringing on Muslim freedom of worship. A Netanyahu aide said the list is not meant to delineate future borders, and that it's premature to talk about concrete renovation plans.

On Friday, in another solidarity gesture, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad prayed at the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is part of the Cave of the Patriarch’s complex.

For five consecutive days last week, from Monday to Friday, Palestinians threw stones and clashed with Israeli soldiers in protest. Palestinians believe that the cave is part of their future state.

Israel has argued that the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried, is one of the most sacred sites and should be marked for preservation and restoration.

“The point here,” argued Khatib, “is that no matter whether historical sites have religious connotations to Muslims, Christians or Jews, as long as it is in the Palestinian Territories it has to be the responsibility of the Palestinians.”

Similarly, he said, Palestinian sites within the pre-1967 armistice line are supposed to be Israel’s responsibility and each side has to allow free access.

On Sunday, rain fell in Hebron but did not wash out the festivities as Jews celebrated the Purim holiday.

In a few isolated incidents Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.

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