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Palestinians forced to close shops in Hebron for Israeli Passover visits

April 26, 2016 12:51 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2016 2:09 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stop a Palestinian woman in the Palestinian side of the city of Hebron, on March 27, 2013. (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian shop owners were forced to close their storefronts in Hebron Tuesday as Israeli politicians called for the annexation of the occupied city during visits by thousands of right-wing Israelis for Passover.

Hebron local and prominent activist Issa Amro told Ma’an that Israeli forces instructed shopkeepers in both the H1 and H2 areas of Hebron to remain closed.

Amro said that by forcing shops to close in H1 -- the area of the city under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority -- Israeli authorities were supporting right-wing Israelis aiming to push Palestinian locals from the city.

“They want to make it look [to Israeli settlers] like Palestinians don’t live here,” Amro said.

The closures of shops in H1 is likely to come as a detriment to shop owners’ livelihoods, while road closures typically implemented by Israeli forces during the visits will impede the freedom of movement of Palestinians throughout the Hebron district, Amro added.

The H2 area, under full Israeli military control, continued under lockdown as the Ibrahimi Mosque -- known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs -- was sealed to Palestinian Muslims for the second consecutive day as Israelis visited holy sites in and around the Old City, Amro said.

Amro told Ma’an that large groups of Israelis visiting the area under armed protection on Monday launched verbal abuse at Palestinian locals, and several Palestinian families refused to leave their homes out of fear of violence from the groups.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on increased security measures or closure in the Hebron area for Passover.

Thousands of Israelis descended on Hebron’s Old City Monday as Israeli politicians held a rally in the center of the flashpoint area, under heavy protection by Israeli security forces.

Israeli media outlets reported that Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Habayit HaYehudi party called on the Israeli leadership to annex the occupied West Bank in its entirety.

“We have to connect Judea and Samaria to the State of Israel. We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it,” Ben-Dahan said, referring to the West Bank.

Knesset member Oren Hazan of the Likud party demanded Israel’s defense ministry allow more Jewish Israelis to settle in Hebron, referring specifically to two building reportedly purchased by far-right groups.

“The buildings in Hebron are the basis of peace, not dispute. The time has come to populate Hebron, just as the time has come to populate every hilltop in Judea and Samaria and in all of Israel," the Jerusalem Post reported Hazan as saying.

Hebron -- the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank -- has long stood at the epicenter of violence in the occupied West Bank as the Israeli military and settlers attempt to expel Palestinians from their homes, particularly in the Old City where Monday's rally took place.

The Israeli leadership has long ignored demands by the international community to halt settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, and the UN has in the past slammed Israel for expansion of settlements in Hebron’s Old City in particular, where increased Jewish presence has come to the detriment of Palestinian locals.

Emily Mulder contributed reporting from Bethlehem.
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