According to local media, Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the departments responsible for the occupied West Bank "to notify the municipality of Hebron about the construction of a new Jewish quarter in the wholesale market complex."
Within the market area is the once-bustling Shuhada Street in Hebron, the main commercial artery of the old city, which was closed by the Israeli army in 1994, despite continued Palestinian protests demanding to reopen it.
Hebron is sacred to both Muslims and Jews and is a flashpoint for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, who are protected by heavily armed Israeli soldiers. The Mayor of Hebron Taysir Abu Sneineh warned that the "dangerous" decision of the Ministry of Defense would provoke escalation in the "entire region."
He added that the municipality of Hebron, under the instructions of Palestinian leaders, will make "every effort" to protect Palestinian land and preserve the property and presence of its citizens.
Israeli occupation minister decided to hand the Palestinian whole sale market in Hebron to violent settlers , it means more apartheid , more segregation, more violence from the fanatic settlers, more checkpoints and closures, it is to remove our Palestinian identity. pic.twitter.com/O8Fq0a5Bik
Israel has built some 140 settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 six-day war. These settlements are illegal under international law. Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, was divided into two areas in 1997, the so-called H1 and H2.
With some 200,000 Palestinians, the H1 zone is under the control of the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah. While some 33,000 Palestinians reside in the H2 zone, along with hundreds of Jewish settlers living under Israeli civil 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.