W. Bank sealed off for Purim

Fayyad: Israel trying to annex Hebron site.

fayyaf hebron 311 (photo credit: AP)
fayyaf hebron 311
(photo credit: AP)
Amid escalating violence in Hebron, the IDF will be on high alertthroughout the West Bank on Sunday out of fear that settlers,celebrating Purim, will clash with Palestinians.
On Saturday,the IDF clamped a closure on the territories for the duration of Purimwhich will end Monday night in walled cities like Jerusalem. Additionalforces will be deployed in defined “hot spots” to prevent frictionbetween Palestinians and settlers.
While Hebron was quiet overthe weekend, defense officials said there were fears that violencewould escalate in the city as well as other parts of the West Bank,particularly in northern Samaria, on Purim day. Palestinians have beenengaged in a series of protests following last Sunday’s cabinetdecision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs to the list of nationalheritage sites.
On Thursday, sporadic violence broke outthroughout Hebron and the IDF significantly increased its presence inthe city. Soldiers stood guard at many points in the Israeli-controlledpart of the city. A number of soldiers were posted on the roof of thebuilding opposite the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Head of the CivilAdministration Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai spoke with Palestinianofficials in an effort to ease tensions and prevent further violence.Mordechai specifically asked that PA security forces that operate inHebron work to prevent additional demonstrations.
PalestinianAuthority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad visited Hebron on Friday andprayed at the Cave of the Patriarchs on Friday afternoon, criticizingIsrael’s decision to add the site and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to thelist of Jewish heritage sites marked for renovation and preservation.
Speaking to reporters after prayers, Fayyad accused Israel of “annexing” the Cave of the Patriarchs.
“[PrimeMinister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s decision has a dangerous politicalnature. The site is an inseparable part of the occupied Palestinianterritories,” Channel 10 quoted Fayyad as saying.
“This is the central reason we oppose the Israeli government’s decision,” Fayyad reportedly said.
Meanwhile,a violent demonstration by dozens of Palestinian protesters in Hebronagainst the heritage list decision ended on Friday evening. Theprotesters hurled rocks at IDF troops and Border Police forces near theJewish quarter in the city, and security forces were using non-lethalweapons to disperse the rioters. One protester was arrested, Army Radioreported.
Forces in Hebron had been on heightened alert,preparing for the possibility of continued rioting in the city.Officials were concerned that violence would escalate following sermonsduring Friday prayers in the city’s mosques.
Two Palestinianprotesters were reportedly injured in clashes on Thursday, a day afterthe Obama administration sharply criticized Israel for its move.
Accordingto Palestinian reports, four demonstrators were also arrested in theviolence just meters from the cave, where dozens of youths threw rocksat Border Police and IDF soldiers.
The security forces fired tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters, who had gathered to protest the Israeli decision.
Thegovernment’s move, announced Sunday, has drawn wide criticism,including from the United Nations. US State Department spokesman MarkToner said the administration viewed the move as provocative andunhelpful to the goal of getting the two sides back to the table.
Toner said US displeasure with the designations of the Cave of thePatriarchs in the flash point town of Hebron and the traditional tombof the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem had been conveyed tosenior Israeli officials by American diplomats.
Netanyahu has attempted to calm the spirits, saying there is nointention to change the status quo at the worship sites. Freedom ofworship would be maintained, he said, and the purpose of the decisionwas to allow renovation and maintain the current status.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.