26 February 2011 | International Solidarity Movement
Hundreds gathered in Hebron on Friday to march against the continued closure of al-Shuhada Street. The non-violent protestors were met with tear gas, sound grenades, and rubber bullets from the Israeli army. Witnesses also said that the army fired tear gas canisters directly at the protestors, which is illegal under international law. Organizers say 20 people were taken to hospital – around half for physical injuries, the rest to be treated for tear gas inhalation – and one Israeli, two Palestinians, and three internationals were detained. Military sources say that only one arrest was made.
One of the city’s major streets, al-Shuhada (Martyrs) Street was forced to close following the Baruch Goldstein massacre of 1994, in which a Jewish extremist murdered 29 Muslims at prayer in the Ibrahim mosque and wounded a further 125. Friday’s march was held on the anniversary of the massacre as protestors demanded that the street be reopened.
Protestors chanted slogans including “Hebron is Palestine!” and “Down with the occupation!” and waved Palestinian flags. The soldiers and border police occupied the centre of Hebron, blocking movement throughout the city and confining many in the city’s old town.
As the protestors were displaced widely throughout the city, estimates of the numbers vary widely. The Israeli military claim that only were 300 present, however the Temporary International Presence in Hebron – an international civilian observer mission mandated by the Israeli and Palestinian Authority to report on events in Hebron – estimate that 1,500 people took part in the demonstrations.
The demonstrations began from several locations throughout the city following midday prayers, and the clashes with the Israeli army continued for several hours. Palestinian Authority soldiers were also present in stopping the demonstrations.
Hebron is home to around 600 Jewish settlers, living in settlements which are regarded as illegal under international law. In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the settlers should be evicted from the area and that al-Shuhada Street should be reopened, but no action has been taken against the settlers and the street remains closed.