Protest flares in Hebron over Israeli heritage plan

10:06, February 23, 2010      

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About 100 Palestinians are protesting near the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is in the West Bank city of Hebron and has been added to an Israeli list of historical sites, an Israeli army spokeswoman said.


An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister at protestors during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Feb. 22, 2010. The incident happened after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in a statement as saying that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Muslims and Jews in Hebron, would be part of a plan to rehabilitate some 150 Jewish and Zionist heritage sites. (Xinhua/Mamoun)

The Palestinians are hurling stones at security forces and burning tyres near a Hebron Jewish community, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson's News Desk told Xinhua, and IDF soldiers are taking measures to disperse the crowd. One soldier was slightly wounded from the stones, and media reported that there are several Palestinians suffering from tear-gas inhalation.

The incident happened in the wake of Israeli government's approval of a new historic reserve project.

Israeli cabinet unanimously agreed on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's National Heritage Plan during a special meeting held on Sunday.

"Our existence here in our country depends not only on the strength of the IDF and our economic and technological might. It is anchored, first and foremost, in our national and emotional legacy," Netanyahu said at the meeting.


Palestinians throw stones at an Israeli army vehicle during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Feb. 22, 2010. The incident happened after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted in a statement as saying that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Muslims and Jews in Hebron, would be part of a plan to rehabilitate some 150 Jewish and Zionist heritage sites. (Xinhua/Mamoun)

The scheme include rehabilitation of more than 150 heritage sites, and the construction of a transportation grid that connects the Galilee and the other parts of Israel.

Controversy arose over Netanyahu's call to add the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is viewed by both Jews and Muslims as a sacred site, and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to the list of Israeli national heritage. Both sites are located in the West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as part of their future state.

According to local daily The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu made the last-minute decision in response to pressure from the religious party Shas, an important coalition partner of the prime minister.

The plan is the last hit to the international peace-making efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which have bogged down for over a year.


An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister at protestors during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Feb. 22, 2010.(Xinhua/Mamoun)

The Palestinian National Authority on Sunday condemned the inclusion. "This declaration is a further step in violating international laws that consider these sites part of the occupied Palestinian land," said Ghassan al-Khatib, a PNA spokesman. "All these places are located in an occupied Palestinian land so it must be put under the sovereignty of the Palestinian law and it is illegal for the occupation force to control or do any changes on these sites," he said.

Netanyahu's decision was also welcomed by criticisms from within Israel. Haim Oron, chairman of Israeli left-wing political party Meretz, reportedly said that the decision was "another attempt to blur the lines between the State of Israel and the occupied territories."


A Palestinian youth throws stones at an Israeli army vehicle during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Feb. 22, 2010. (Xinhua/Mamoun)

Israel occupied the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, during the 1967 Six Day War. Following 1993 Oslo Accords and the interim agreements afterwards, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of the West Bank.

Source: Xinhua
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