Volatile Hebron Could Derail Talks

Riddled with Israeli checkpoints and neglected by the Palestinian Authority, Hebron is a powder keg that could explode at any moment.

al-monitor Palestinian protesters throw stones at Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron, Sept. 27, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma.

Topics covered

peace process, west bank, peace talks, israeli settlers, israeli-palestinian conflict, hebron, checkpoints

Oct 2, 2013

HEBRON, West Bank — Israeli authorities are still trying to solve the mystery of a soldier who was shot dead on Sept. 23. This requires them to carry out arrests and raids, raising the already high tension in the city of Hebron.

Issa Amer, coordinator of the Youth Against Settlements group, summarized the situation in Hebron: “The city is living in a state of heated tension that could blow up at any minute.”

Amer works tirelessly throughout the city, moving from one place to another. His cell phone does not stop ringing. On Sept. 30, Amer was in the region of al-Sahle where the Israeli soldier was shot dead checking on a house owned by Palestinian Issa Abu Miala, seized by settlers shortly before the Feast of Tabernacles.

Hebron is the second-largest city in the West Bank and the only Palestinian city in which settlers have occupied certain districts.

“Although the situation in Hebron is always tense, the death of the soldier has exacerbated it. Occupation forces arrested more than 1,500 citizens throughout the first three days following the killing. The majority of them were released while scores are still held up. The southern part of the Cave of the Patriarchs is completely sealed off,” Amer told Al-Monitor.

Amer is even more concerned about the fact that “Occupation forces have shut down gates dedicated to [medical] patients, usually located near Israeli military checkpoints.”

Al-Sahle is located 1 kilometer to the south of the Cave of the Patriarchs. The village seems to be in a state of relative calm. The streets are still and children are nowhere to be seen. The reason behind this might be that the Beit Mirkaht military checkpoint is located a few meters away, known by Palestinians as the “pharmacy.” This checkpoint leaves residents feeling anxious.

Mohamad al-Atrash, a journalist living in the area, was arrested and detained for a number of hours. He told Al-Monitor, “Two weeks following the operation, raids are still ongoing. They broke into houses more than once.”

Hashem Sharbati, a researcher at the al-Haq organization, explained that the Israelis are “trying to solve the mystery of the soldier’s murder. Army, intelligence and criminal investigation forces have made the life of residents a living hell.”

Children gather near the al-Ibrahimia school, 200 meters away from the scene. Barbed-wired barricades were put in place around the school to protect the students from settler attacks, while the playground adjacent to the building became a parking for Israeli vehicles.

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