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  • Hebron is home to about 160,000 Palestinians and some 500 Jewish settlers, with the latter living in a series of Jewish-only enclaves.

    Hebron is home to about 160,000 Palestinians and some 500 Jewish settlers, with the latter living in a series of Jewish-only enclaves. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 December 2019
Opinion

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett gave the green light for the construction of a new settlement in Hebron.

Palestinians started a general strike in the West Bank city of Hebron Monday in protest of Israeli plans to build a new illegal settlement in the flashpoint city. 

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Shops, as well as public and private institutions, were shut down as part of the strike which was accompanied by some sporadic protests repressed by Israeli forces with tear gas, according to the local news agency Wafa.

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett gave the green light for the construction of a new settlement with 70 housing units that would double the population of Israeli settlers in Hebron. The controversial Israeli project would also lead to the erasure of an antique wholesale market owned by the Palestinian municipality in order to make room for the settlement.

Bennett's office said the settlement will create Jewish "territorial continuity" between the existing Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the Ibrahimi mosque.

The Ibrahimi Mosque complex is revered by both Muslims and Jews. It is believed to mark the burial sites of the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Israeli authorities who occupy the city since 1967, divided it between Muslim and Jewish worshippers in 1994 after the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers inside the mosque by Jewish extremist settler Baruch Goldstein.

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Hebron is home to about 160,000 Palestinians and some 500 Jewish settlers, with the latter living in a series of Jewish-only enclaves protected by Israeli troops.

Bennet has made numerous controversial steps since his nomination as interim defense minister on Nov. 12, including the authorization of the assassination of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta’s in an airstrike on his Gaza home, leading to two days of violent clashes during which 34 Palestinians died before a ceasefire was agreed.

Then, he announced that the Israeli army will no longer release the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, and created a database of Palestinian and Arab activists to target their financial activities in Israel and outside the country. The army chief has also developed a war plan against what he called “Iran’s presence in Syria."

Since 1967, Israel has built some 140 settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem​​​. These settlements are illegal under international law. ​​​​​​​

On Nov. 18, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are not “inconsistent with international law,” leaving behind a 40-year-long position of policy regarding the sensitive issue and endorsing Israel’s illegal settlements at the expense of the peace process and the two states solution.

According to several United Nations Security Council resolutions, Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says an occupying power cannot move its civilian population into the territory it occupies. 

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