Symbols of occupation in Hebron: evicted settlers are allowed to return, stones taken from Ibrahimi Mosque

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Ibrahimi Mosque
Ibrahimi Mosque by Nick Thompson

[Update below]

At a time when John Kerry seems to think that the Israelis are playing ball on negotiations, the colonization of the West Bank continues apace.

Noam Sheizaf reports at +972:

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, new construction projects in West Bank settlements have grown by 176 percent (!) compared to the same period last year (January-March 2012). This is a 355 percent increase, when compared to the final quarter of 2012 (October-December).

One symbol of this expansion is a particularly contentious building in the heart of Hebron we focused on last year.  A little over a year ago, in a widely reported political farce, the Israeli military forcibly evicted about 1oo Jewish setttlers who had illegally occupied a three story building ‘Beit Hamachpela’ in a Palestinian neighborhood. The BBC reported  at the time “local Palestinian police disputed the validity of the deal, saying the building had more than 50 owners, only one of whom sold his share.”

But the settlers were theatrically removed on the eve of Passover, providing the Israeli government with a PR-coup, featuring photos of an evicted settler rolling her baby in a stroller surrounded by Israeli troops as Netanyahu, declaring his commitment to the rule of law, saw the area was cordoned off in a closed military zone while the Ministry of Housing was busy announcing tenders for 800 hundred new plots for expansion in the West Bank!

Well now they’re back: On Monday, an Israeli military appeals panel ‘validated‘ the purchase by the Jewish settlers of this three story building right across the street from the Cave of the Patriarchs in a Palestinian neighborhood under Israeli military control. The Jerusalem Post reports “Palestinians also live in a small section of the building which was not purchased by the settlers.”

Meantime, inside the mosque at the Patriachs’ caves, the settlers are up to no good. On Wednesday, under the protection of the Israeli military, Jewish settlers removed an archaeological wall inside the corridors of the Ibrahimi Mosque, removing the ancient stones. The Ibrahimi mosque, considered to be the fourth holiest site in Islam, was the site of a 1994 massacre by Israeli right-winger Baruch Goldstein who killed 29 praying Palestinians. Later the site was besieged by several thousand right-wing settlers and their supporters in 2010 who declared the mosque be designated as an Israeli national heritage site despite the fact that it is located well within Palestinian territory.

From the Palestinian Information Center:

Taysir Abu Sneineh, the Director General of the Ministry of Endowments in al-Khali, told Quds Press that the cleaners of the Ibrahimi Mosque found yesterday that the settlers, with the support of the Israeli occupation army, removed an ancient wall inside the mosque and took its stones to an unknown destination

Abu Sneineh considered that this act represents a blatant assault on the Ibrahimi Mosque and aims to change the mosque’s features and Judaize it, under the protection and support of the Israeli government.

It’s a very volatile/provocative location and initially there was no military authorization for the purchase, which is supposed to be required.  “Economic peace” is worthless when Palestinian homes are gobbled up left and right and Palestinians are constantly getting killed, abducted, arrested, detained and/or imprisoned while Israel expands. Maybe John Kerry should put that in his pipe and smoke it.

Update: Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reported Israeli forces held military exercises inside the Ibrahimi Mosque on Thursday, evicting worshipers:

The Israeli occupation army has held exercises inside the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Muslim worshippers were forced out of the mosque on Thursday as the troops moved in.

Tayseer Abu Sneineh, the Director of Religious Endowments in Hebron, said that worshippers were excluded from the mosque for several hours while the unidentified exercises took place. He added that the mosque officials were prevented by the soldiers from making the midday call to prayer.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past ‘Beit Hamachpela’ in Hebron. (photo: Uri Lenz)

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