Ibrahimi Mosque by Nick Thompson
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 100 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!
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.