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13 injured as Hebron clashes mark massacre anniversary

Feb. 21, 2014 4:21 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 27, 2014 6:08 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- At least 13 Palestinians were injured and five detained after Israeli forces violently dispersed protests in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Friday marking the 20th anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre.

The clashes erupted following a large demonstration organized by the activist group Youths against Settlements calling for the re-opening of Shuhada Street, a major Hebron thoroughfare closed to Palestinians by Israeli forces since 1994.

Over 2,000 people marched from Sheikh Ali al-Bakaa mosque towards the eastern entrance of al-Shuhada street, but Israeli forces began firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters at demonstrators as they reached Bab al-Baladiya area.

Hebron governor Kamil Hmeid and lawmaker Mustafa al-Barghouthi were among the participants in the march.

Coordinator for Youths against Settlements Issa Amro said that Israeli forces chased protesters into the Bab al-Zawya neighborhood and fired rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring at least 13.

Ambulances took the injured for treatment in the city's hospitals, while others who suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation were treated at the scene.

Among the injured were Badee al-Dweik, Tamer al-Atrash, Issa Amro, Mohammad Zughayyer, and Farid al-Atrash.

DFLP political bureau member Majida al-Masri suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that "150 Palestinians violently crowded" and had "hurled rocks" while blocking a main road. As a result, Israeli forces "used riot dispersal means in order to disperse them, and three were "transferred for questioning."

The protests come on the fifth anniversary of the launch of the campaign "Open Shuhada Street," a local campaign to force Israeli authorities to re-open one of central Hebron's main thoroughfares to Palestinian traffic.

The street was shuttered in 1994 after a Jewish extremist entered the nearby Ibrahimi Mosque and opened fire, killing 29 worshipers and injuring 125.

Israeli forces subsequently closed the thoroughfare under the pretext of protecting Jewish settlements inside Hebron from Palestinian reprisal.

According to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, by 2007 over 40 percent of the area's Palestinian homes had been abandoned and three-quarters of commercial establishments had shut down to the severe difficulties they faced as a result of the street closure and checkpoints.

500 Israeli settlers live in Hebron's Old City, many of whom have illegally occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli forces, and frequently harass local Palestinians.

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 Tomb of the Patriarchs -- and the once thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shops fronts and closed homes.
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