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Hebron holds rare festival in Old City

Jan. 25, 2013 10:32 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 26, 2013 4:52 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Palestinians in Hebron celebrated a religious holiday on Thursday with a large festival in the Israeli-controlled Old City.

Hebron was split into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control under a 1997 agreement.

The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, and the former commercial center, now a virtual ghost town.

Palestinians were stunned on Thursday as thousands of worshipers at the Old City's Ibrahimi mosque poured into al-Shalala street, buying gifts and listening to a religious musical performance.

The celebration was held on Prophet Muhammad's birthday, a national holiday in Palestine.

Shop keeper Shadi al-Qawasmi told Ma'an he hopes that such celebrations will encourage people to visit the Old City, and to do shopping there in order to help the economy.

Hebron Governor Kamel Hmeid said the festival shows "this land is for Palestinians and will be for Palestinian people forever."

He called on Arab ambassadors, diplomatic and foreign delegations to visit Ibrahimi mosque and the Old City of Hebron.

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