Israeli forces on Friday suppressed a peaceful march of Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron, firing tear gas, physically assaulting and throwing stun grenades directly at protesters and journalists.
The march was in commemoration of one of the most deadly attacks against Palestinians in Hebron during the past three decades. It has been 22 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, when an Israeli settler extremist shot dead 29 Palestinians during prayer, and injured more than 100 more with live bullets.
Following the attack, Israeli authorities closed down the large marketplace surrounding the mosque. To this day, only allowing Israeli settlers and a handful of Palestinian residents to venture down the once-bustling Shuhada Street, above, known by locals and activists as “Ghost Town.” (Photo by Abed al Qaisi)
After the massacre, Ibrahimi Mosque was eventually partitioned off, with half remaining a mosque, and the other half transformed into a temple, as Israeli Jews claim the site was in its original form. Cracks between the partition in the mosque allow a small glimpse into the temple (above). More open areas between the two sides are split with non-transparent bullet-proof glass.
Every year since, Palestinians have commemorated the incident, usually through protest marches. This year, marchers gathered at a local mosque on the outskirts of Hebron city to pray before launching the protest.
So many protesters showed up for the commemoration that many were left to pray in the streets before the march.
Issa Amro the head of the Hebron-based group Youth Against Settlements, said protesters had no plans to throw rocks or commit any other form of violence during the march.
“If violence erupts, it will be from the Israeli soldiers, not us,” Amro said, just having handed out a bundle of new Palestinian flags to activists.
A few kilometers away from the start of the march, protesters approached an intersection on Mohawil street, which leads to the illegal Israeli settlement of Kyriat Arba off in the distance.
Dozens of Israeli forces immediately approached the marchers, physically confronting protesters.
Farid al-Atrash, a prominent Palestinian lawyer, held up a sign that read “Free Free Palestine,” both hands in the air as Israeli forces tackled and detained him when he, along with the other protesters, refused to turn back.
As Amro predicted, protesters stuck to their mandate of non-violence, using only their voices to confront the fully-armed Israeli soldiers.
As protesters refused to leave the area, which was declared a “closed military zone,” Israeli forces began throwing stun grenades and tear gas directly at demonstrators.
With no way to defend themselves, eventually protesters had no choice but to retreat.