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Palestinians stage sit-in for the reopening of Hebron's Old City

Jan. 9, 2016 7:15 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 10, 2016 1:01 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Local activists continued a sit-in on Saturday outside of an Israeli military checkpoint set up on Hebron’s al-Shuhada street in protest of the military's total closure of the area.

Al-Shuhada street, as well as the Tel Rumeida area of the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, was designated a closed military zone by the Israeli army in November following increased violence in the area.

The order was renewed earlier this month and bans all entry to the areas, apart from Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents.

Palestinian residents were forced to register in order to gain access to their homes and have reported higher-than-average difficulty travelling through the nearly 20 checkpoints that stand across the Old City.

The Youth Against Settlements group, which documents violations carried out by Israeli military and settlers in the Hebron area, initially began the sit-in on Thursday with local residents, demanding the new restrictions come to an end.

The director of the group, Issa Amro, told Ma’an that a numbering system used by the Israeli military to register Palestinian residents of the area and enable their movement echoed systems used by the Nazi regime during World War II.

Amro said the sit-in tent would remain until the use of the number system ended and Tel Rumeida and al-Shuhada street were reopened.

Palestinian lawyer Farid al-Atrash, who heads the Independent Committee for Human Rights in the southern West Bank, told Ma’an that Israel’s use of the number system in Hebron’s Old City was a violation of international law, and that “it also obstructs their [Palestinians'] movement and denies them their basic rights of living with dignity, freedom and safety.”

The lawyer demanded international intervention to protect Palestinian residents from Israeli violations in the area. Such requests have previously been made by Palestinian leadership but have yet to come to fruition.

Local activist Mufid al-Sharabati meanwhile told Ma’an that the measures implemented by Israel in the last few months have been the most severe since the Ibrahimi mosque massacre took place in 1994.

The massacre, carried out by an Israeli extremist on Muslim worshipers, resulted in the division of Hebron into the area of H1, under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and the area of H2 which includes the Old City and surrounding areas under full Israeli military control.

“Israel prevents ambulances from reaching locals and residents are always delayed and stopped at checkpoints,” al-Sharabati told Ma’an, adding that relatives, friends, international supporters and journalists are unable to reach Palestinian residents living in the Old City due to the closed military zone.

The Israeli army pledged following the November closure to maintain normalcy for residents following the military order, however Israeli rights group B’Tselem since has said: "There has been no 'normal fabric of life' in Hebron for many days, and the measures taken in the name of security are draconian and not dictated by reality.”

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