Hebron clans oppose COVID-19 lockdown, clash with PA police

Several Hebron residents wondered why Ramallah, where the PA leadership is based, was not placed under lockdown.

City of Hebron (photo credit: NOOR KHATIB)
City of Hebron
(photo credit: NOOR KHATIB)
At least 10 Palestinians were injured on Friday during clashes with Palestinian Authority security forces in Hebron, where residents protested against a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many Palestinians in Hebron, a busy hub of West Bank trade, rejected the PA government’s decision to impose a one-week lockdown on the city and its surrounding villages as of Thursday evening after a spike in coronavirus infections in the West Bank.
Last week, the PA government announced that, in addition to Hebron, the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem and Tulkarm would also be placed under lockdown. The restriction excludes pharmacies, bakeries and supermarkets.
The announcement triggered a wave of protests in Hebron, where Palestinians accused the PA government of “discrimination” and said they would not abide by the lockdown.
Several Hebron residents wondered why Ramallah, where the PA leadership is based, was not placed under lockdown.
The heads of some large Hebron clans appealed to the PA government to rescind its decision on the pretext that the city was already suffering from a sharp economic crisis.
On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians held a rally in the city during which they called on residents not to abide by the coronavirus restrictions.
PA security officers who arrived at the scene were attacked with rocks and empty bottles, witnesses said, adding that the officers used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the protesters.
A PA security official said that masked gunmen also used live ammunition to attack the officers, who were not hurt.
Abu Khader Ja’bari, head of one of Hebron’s largest clans who has been leading the anti-lockdown protests, called for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the violence.
In a related development, the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction accused Ja’bari of threatening Mohammed Lahham, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Lahham, host of a local television show, last week scoffed at Ja’bari and accused him of being closely associated with IDF officers and settlers.
In response, Ja’bari, flanked by dozens of his clan members and supporters, condemned Lahham’s remarks and accused him of “insulting” all the residents of Hebron, who have long been the butt of many jokes in Palestinian society.
In a statement, the council warned that any threat against Lahham would be considered as a threat against the entire Fatah faction. “Fatah does not accept these rogue practices and calls on the [PA] authorities to strike with an iron fist against all those who are tempted to harm our members,” the statement read.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate also condemned the “death threats” against Lahham as an “attempt to undermine civil peace, and a flagrant violation of public freedoms and the freedom of the media.”