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.


First split opens up in new Lebanon government

Updated 39 min 13 sec ago

First split opens up in new Lebanon government

  • Foreign minister quits over lack of reform, warns of ‘failed state’

BEIRUT: The first major split opened up in Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s barely six-month-old government on Monday when his foreign minister resigned.
Nassif Hitti said there was “an absence of a real will to achieve the comprehensive and structural reform demanded by the national and international community,” and Lebanon was “sliding toward becoming a failed state.”
Hitti was swiftly replaced by Charbel Wehbe, diplomatic adviser to President Michel Aoun and a career diplomat. Wehbe, 67, is a former secretary general of the ministry, and is close to Aoun and his influential son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister 
Lebanon is enduring an economic crash, with the value of its currency plunging. The government has appealed to the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars in aid, but there has been little progress on the reforms demanded in return for a bailout.
Diab’s administration has also been attacked by its opponents for weak decision-making and depending on dominant forces in the cabinet, most notably Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. As he resigned, Hitti launched a veiled attack on them.
“I participated in this government on the basis that I have one employer called Lebanon, and I found many employers and conflicting interests in my country, who did not agree about the interest of the Lebanese people and its rescue,” he said.
Hitti was said to be upset by the government’s poor performance, and because it had not carried out any of the pledges it made to the Lebanese people or the international community to root out corruption.
He was also uncomfortable at the growing diplomatic role given to security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim in communicating with some countries at the expense of the foreign ministry. He viewed this encroachment as depleting his “professional and diplomatic credit,” he said.
Government opponents praised Hitti’s courage. “The political forces holding on to the actual power will make Lebanon a failed state,” said Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party. “Hitti’s testimony came after a performance that lasted more than six months, and Lebanon’s situation will not settle as long as Hezbollah, the FPM and their allies have authority in Lebanon.”
Marwan Hamade, a member of the Lebanese parliament, said Hitti had “risen up” against the government to join the people and the revolution again. Another MP, Henri Helo, said: “We hope that more follow suit, which paves the way for a new government that meets the Lebanese people’s ambitions.”