Palestinians reject Israeli attempts to control Hebron mosque

Israeli soldiers stand guard at the Ibrahimi mosque in the divided West Bank town of Hebron on February 23, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2020

Palestinians reject Israeli attempts to control Hebron mosque

  • The attempts to Judaize the West Bank and the heart of the city of Hebron and the Jordan Valley are being carried out with the support and encouragement of the US administration

AMMAN: Palestinian officials have rejected Israeli efforts to take charge of Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, calling it a violation of existing agreements and UNESCO resolutions.

In 2017, the specialized UN agency declared the city of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque as Palestinian cultural sites and listed them among “world sites that are considered in danger.”

According to the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords) of 1993, and the Hebron Accords signed by Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997, the mosque’s management is solely in the hands of the Palestinian municipality.

On Sunday, the Israeli defense minister approved changes in the area without referring back to the Palestinian municipality, which has jurisdiction over it. Israel wants to install an elevator so that people with mobility issues can access the holy site, which has religious significance for Abrahamic faiths.

Hebron Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneneh told Palestinian TV that the Israelis were “playing with fire.”

“They are changing the rules of the game, playing with fire and moving the entire city and area into undesired violent terrain,” he warned.

Abu Sneneh added that the Hebron municipality, established in 1870 during Ottoman rule in the Middle East, was responsible for the city and all its religious and civil institutions.

Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli knesset, described the decision of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett as very dangerous.

“Bennett is one of the pillars of the settler movement, an avid believer in the land of Israeli legend is trying to use his last days as defense minister to cause havoc in the occupied territories so he can boast about it later,” Tibi told Arab News.

The Israeli decision also confiscates further Palestinian land in Hebron.

Hundreds of Jewish settlers live in the heart of the city, protected by 1,500 Israeli soldiers, even as the city’s 200,000 Palestinian Arabs have to navigate around army checkpoints.

“The attempts to Judaize the West Bank and the heart of the city of Hebron and the Jordan Valley are being carried out with the support and encouragement of the US administration,” Ahmad Deek, the political adviser to the Palestinian foreign minister, told Arab News.

He called on the International Criminal Court to “accept the recommendation of the attorney general regarding the applicability of their mandate on the occupied territories and to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes, especially the settlement enterprise.”

An important road in Hebron, Shuhada Street, has been closed off to Palestinians since 1994, when an Israeli soldier entered the mosque and gunned down 29 worshippers who were performing dawn prayers.

An unarmed multinational Temporary International Protection for Hebron (TIPH) force was allowed into the city shortly afterwards, but Israel refused to allow the force access to the mosque. In March 2019, Israel refused to renew their agreement and asked the force to leave Hebron.


Iran records highest COVID-19 cases in over month

Updated 16 min 51 sec ago

Iran records highest COVID-19 cases in over month

  • Latest count takes the total cases identified in Iran since late February to 314,786
  • Iran made wearing masks mandatory in enclosed spaces

TEHRAN: Iran confirmed Tuesday over 2,700 new COVID-19 infections, its highest single-day count in more than a month, as the health ministry called for those without masks to be fined.
Deaths and infections from the novel coronavirus have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic republic since hitting a months-long low in May.
This has prompted Iran to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed spaces and reimpose restrictions lifted gradually since April to reopen the economy.
Despite the rule, people without masks can still be seen inside the capitals’ shops and banks, and state television often criticizes them for doing so.
“In the past 24 hours, new confirmed cases were reported to be 2,751,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in televised remarks.
The number is the highest since June 5, when the ministry reported 2,886 infections in one day.
The latest count takes the total cases identified in Iran since late February to 314,786, Lari added.
Another 212 people died from the virus during the past 24 hours, bringing the overall toll to 17,617.
Iran’s deputy health minister called for those who fail to obey the mask rules to be fined, as the only penalty currently in place is the refusal of service in public places.
“Deterrent methods must naturally be used, one of which is fining those not wearing masks,” ISNA news agency quoted Iraj Harirchi as saying.
But those “financially unable to buy masks must be exempted,” he added, without elaborating how that could be determined.
Iran has suffered a sharp economic downturn since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
It has seen a drop in non-oil exports compounded by a tumbling currency and runaway inflation, piling new pressure on those already dependent on government cash handouts.
Masks in Iran cost from about 15 US cents for simple surgical ones to 68 cents for multilayered ones with respirators, while the minimum wage is currently $2.60 per day.