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Israel to restrict Muslims from Ibrahimi mosque Fri and Sat

Oct. 20, 2013 2:20 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 22, 2013 3:15 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have decided to restrict access to the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron's Old City to Muslims on Friday and Saturday.

The closure will take place from 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon until 9 p.m. on Saturday evening.

During this time, the mosque will be opened for Jewish settlers to celebrate the holiday "Shabbat Chayei Sarah," which marks Abraham's purchase of Hebron.

Head of the Islamic endowment of Hebron, Taysir Abu Sneineh, said that the restriction of Muslim access to mosque was part of a larger campaign on the part of Israeli authorities to change the features of the mosque into a Jewish temple.

Hebron is a frequent site of clashes due to the presence of 500 Israeli settlers in the Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces.

In 1994, an Israeli settler opened fire on Muslim worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29 and injuring more than 100 Palestinians.

Settlers and Israeli forces regularly target local Palestinians for harassment, and many have been forced from their homes as a result.

A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control.

The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, home of the revered Ibrahimi Mosque -- also split into a synagogue referred to as the Cave of the Patriarchs -- and the once thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shops fronts and closed homes.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law. The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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