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Israeli court dismisses petition to re-open Hebron road

June 16, 2011 4:23 P.M. (Updated: June 17, 2011 1:35 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israel's High Court threw out a petition seeking the re-opening of a market street in Hebron's city center, which would have overturned 21 military orders mandating the closure of the area for "security reasons."

Judge Dorit Beinisch presided over the case, which was submitted in 2004, and ultimately deemed that the security situation in Hebron's Old City mandated the closures, citing next to zero confrontations in the area between a 700-strong settler population and local residents.

"If you take cars off the roads there will be no accidents," Director of Hebron's Rehabilitation Committee Imad Hamdan commented after receiving the news of the dismissal."

Ash-Shuhada Street, once the main shopping area in the city's ancient downtown, is now divided down the center with concrete blocks, one side for Palestinian residents who can prove that they live down the street, and the other for settlers who have taken over homes in the area.

Most Palestinians are prohibited from walking on the street, which resembles a ghost town dotted with soldiers who patrol the area.

Justice Beinisch's decision, handed down on June 6, was a "great disappointment," Hamdan said.

During the seven years that the petition was before the courts, the restrictions put in place by the Israeli military were reviewed by its Civil Administration.

"Proposals would be made to move one checkpoint a block away, or change the location of a guard tower from the roof of a house," Hamdan explained, adding that none of the suggested changes would have allowed Palestinians free movement in the area, and were rejected each time.

The 21 military orders, which according to reports from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem have closed 440 shops in the area, are renewed by the army every six months.

"This policy led to the economic collapse of the center of Hebron and drove many Palestinians out of the area," B'Telem said in a report on conditions in the city.

"At the moment, we have no plans to file a new petition," Hamdan said, "we are heartened that the closure was never made permanent, and hope to continue pushing for better interpretations of the orders, perhaps there will be a political change, and when that chance comes we will take it."

On Tuesday, residents of Ash-Shuhada Street reported a gathering of an estimated 100 settlers, who threw stones and chanted anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian slogans at the homes of four families.

One resident commented that the judge's decision to dismiss the petition had given the settler community courage to continue harassing local residents.

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