Today, around 300 Israeli settlers marched down Shuhada Street towards the Ibrahimi mosque in the H2 area of Hebron to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, under the protection of Israeli soldiers and police. The starting point of the parade had been announced as “Elor Azaria” junction, a reference to the spot where Azaria, an Israeli soldier and medic, had killed an incapacitated Palestinian in March 2016 and was subsequently sentenced by an Israeli court. He was freed from prison only after having served 9 months.
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the story in the book of Esther where the Jewish people were saved from a plan to wipe them out during the ancient Persian Empire. The holiday is often celebrated with festive gatherings where people dress in costumes.
The march was accompanied by loud music and many participants dressed up in costumes, some of them wearing keffiyehs and supposedly Arab clothes with fake suicide bombs, while some Palestinian residents watched from behind their fenced windows and were not allowed to pass. Some participants were also dressed up as members as TIPH, the international human rights observers who were recently expelled from the city by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The departure of the international observers from Hebron was celebrated by the Israeli settlers, who also routinely harass journalists and international activists who document the human rights abuses that Palestinians face in the area.
Since 1997, Hebron has been divided into H2 and H1. The H2 area in Hebron is under full Israeli control and is inhabited by approximately 35,000 Palestinians and 500 Israeli settlers who are protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers. Palestinians in the area face daily harrassment by the Israeli settlers and soldiers and impediments to their freedom of movement. Shuhada street, once a bustling street in the city, has become a ghost town, and hundreds of its Palestinians shops have been closed.
The day before the march, it was reported that the Israeli forces raided the Haj Ziad Jaber School in Hebron and took away a 10-year-old Palestinian boy. The march also took place as four Palestinians had been killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces in the previous 24 hours.
The main checkpoints leading to the area where the parade was taking place were closed to Palestinians during the event.
During the Purim holiday, Israel has imposed a four-day closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which will end on midnight on Saturday.