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Shuhada Street is in Hebron, the largest city on the West Bank with about 230,000 inhabitants (Inverness has 64 000, and Forres about 12 000, and Huddersfield 160 000), The Old City under military control has about 30 000. Hebron is only 14 miles from Bethlehem. Hebron has a chequered history, under Egyptian and Ottomon control for many years in the 1800s. Jews lived in Hebron, but following a massacre of about 70 Jews in Hebron in 1929, the remaining Jews were evacuated by the British for their safety.
The military occupation of the West Bank after 1967 precludes the legality of settler colonisation and virtually none of the 500 or so settlers in the Old City have any family ties to the Jews that lived there in 1929.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was an international organisation established in 1997 as part of the Oslo Accords’ Hebron Protocol, which allowed the partial redeployment of Israeli military forces to the part of the city that remained under its control. It monitored the effects of military control on Palestinian civilian life, and published a damning report in 2017, after which Israel refused to extend its mandate effectively disbanding and deporting them.
TIPH reported, inter-alia, based, among other things, on over 40,000 “incident reports” compiled over the years by TIPH’s team:’
Israel is violating the right to non-discrimination as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Israel in 1991, according to the report. Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled area of the city lack of freedom of movement and the right to worship, clear breaches of this right, the report says. In addition, TIPH says, Israel is constantly in breach of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention (IV), forbidding the deportation of protected persons (those living under occupation who are not citizens of the occupying country) from occupied territory.
A diplomat who has seen the report told Haaretz that it says “this basic human right is breached regularly and more and more severely for the Palestinians in Hebron – and particularly for those living in H2 – relating to lack of freedom of movement and the right to worship.”
“Normal life,” especially in Hebron’s Old City area in the Israeli-controlled area of H2, is nowhere to be found, the report says, referencing the TIPH mandate that states that the mission “assists in monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron.” Furthermore, the old Palestinian vegetable market has become an Israeli military zone, often occupied by settlers and a playground for their children, according to the report.
The report also disputes land ownership claims in Hebron’s Old City made by settlers who say they represent previous Jewish owners who fled or were murdered during the 1929 Hebron massacre. Today’s settlers, the report says, have no family ties with previous owners of the property, and the question of ownership of land that had been inhabited or used by Jews prior to 1929 has still not been answered clearly. Regardless of these ownership claims, TIPH says the presence of any Israeli settlement in Hebron is considered a violation of international law.
The report also notes the exodus from H2 of those Palestinians who can afford to move to Palestinian Authority-controlled H1, where they face fewer restrictions. Those who can’t or don’t want to leave H2 have to confront “radical Israeli settlers” who are supported by the Israeli government and Jewish foundations abroad, the report claims.
The division of security responsibilities in H1 and H2 works in contradiction to the Hebron agreement and is hindering the movement of people, goods and vehicles within the city, the report warns. Obstacles and barriers between the two areas have developed into a military fortification consisting of numerous closures and checkpoints manned by Israeli security forces, especially controlling the city’s Palestinian inhabitants.
The report highlights Shuhada Street, which is probably Hebron’s most famous thoroughfare. Once a thriving Palestinian market, today it is devoid of Palestinians and its shops are shuttered. Palestinians are still not allowed to drive on the street and can’t access parts of it on foot, the report notes, adding that, over the past 20 years, TIPH has witnessed how these tight movement restrictions for Palestinians on Shuhada Street have spread to other parts of H2.
In contrast, Israeli drivers are granted access to all of H2’s roads. Gradually, the report says, settlers have been given the right to build and extend their settlement activities, including on Palestinian land. Infrastructure construction and maintenance for roads, water and access have also been prioritized for Israeli settlers, the report says.
TIPH also says it has seen land in the settlement of Tel Rumeida, rented by Palestinians for more than a generation, being closed by Israeli military orders and used for archaeological excavations, seeking to prove a Jewish presence there from the first century B.C.E.
Simultaneously, the TIPH report says, freedom of movement for the Palestinians living in Tel Rumeida has been seriously curtailed. Over the years, it has been enclosed and surrounded by several checkpoints – with dire consequences for its Palestinian inhabitants. They are not allowed to receive visitors who are not registered on a list held by the checkpoints guards. TIPH notes that Palestinians are often harassed at these checkpoints, and that the only way to bring food and other provisions to their homes is by foot. Studies, work and family relations are also very challenging for these residents, it writes.
TIPH also witnessed how paths and roads have been established on Palestinian farmland over the years, in order to create exclusive routes for Jewish worshippers heading from the settlement of Kiryat Arba to downtown Hebron. In addition, old Palestinian houses from the Ottoman era situated along this path were demolished in order to widen it.
The observatory mission also notes that Palestinians face numerous obstacles trying to access the Ibrahimi Mosque – which is an important religious site to both Muslims and Jews (the Tomb of the Patriarchs is also situated there). There are now only two access points to the Muslim holy site and worshippers have first to pass several Israeli-manned checkpoints. Worshippers are searched and sometimes required to lift up their clothes. The muezzin, TIPH notes, is not allowed to call worshippers for prayer on Friday evenings and Saturdays due to the Jewish Shabbat. The group adds that while some 1,600 Palestinian worshippers were counted attending the mosque on a given Friday in 2003, that number had been halved by 2017.
From Elat in the south to the Golan heights is approximately the same distance as from Glasgow to John O’ Groats, Hebron to Elat about 130 miles, the same as Elgin to Glasgow.
Shuhada Street lies at the south western edge of the Old City, and forms part of a margin or back-border with existing Jewish settlements within the Old City of Hebron, settlements that have been illegally created over the years since 1967. It leads to the Ibrahimi mosque and has been closed to Palestinians and the shops welded shut since the massacre of 29 muslim worshippers in the mosque in February 1994. Its western entrance is guarded by the infamous checkpoint 56.
Maps showing the yellow and red roads controlled by the Israeli military for settler use , the red road to the left is Shuhada street – off limits to any Palestinians. The blue areas are Israeli settlements, all of these and the centre of the Old City of about 35000 inhabitants are in the grey area, H2, under Israeli military control and law. The small red circles with crosses in them are military checkpoints.
Map more clearly illustrating the circulations between the settlements and the crucial role intended for Shuhada Street.
The position of Shuhada Street provides a transport, and resources conduit from Kiryat Arba to the settlements in the Old City itself and is the reason for its significance for the Zionist colonisers which lies in its function for enabling increased aggressive settler colonisation of the old city. by Zionist here I mean people who consider Y’Israel as far as the Jordan should be a Jewish State which excludes full rights for Palestinians.
So then, Shuhada Street is a crucial link between Kiryat Arba, a settlement of over 7000 inhabitants about 1 mile to the east of the old city, and the settlements in the city centre. Once Shuhada Street is settled – which is planned (see below) – then a ring of settlements linked together will surround Hebron enabling the settlers to exert even more pressure, and aggressive harrassment to drive out the legitimate indigenous inhabitants of the Old City. This amounts to the forcible transfer of the inhabitants of an occupied territory whihc is illegal under international law.
Shuhada Street is also important because it runs close to the mosque and Tomb of the Patriarchs, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews; and this is another reason why Shuhada Street is being appropriated by Jewish settlers. (see map above , B’tselem)
Zionist propaganda tells of the apparent Palestinian ‘myth’ of Shuhada Street as Palestinian propaganda that Shuhada Street was an important commercial site for Hebron. The Zionists point to the new city and claim Shuhada Street was just a minor road leading to a cemetey and of no importance. In fact Shuhada Street was a thriving market near a bus station that provided economic life to the Old City. It’s closure by the military in 1997 involved the welding shut of the market units and houses and the closure of 180 shops, and the displacement of several hundred Palestinians. ot closure has all but made the Old City economically bankrupt – forcing the displacement of Palestinians (a war crime) – and at the same time opened up settlement expansion opportunities for the Zionists.
As you can see from the maps above Shuhada Street was an important link between the south west of Hebron and the markets on the Old City.
The ‘new’ city of Hebron may look to be flourishing; but this does not show the restrictions of movement for Palestinians, or the continued efforts to displace Palestinians in the West Bank by restrictions of movement,and the theft and destruction of land, building and resources.
The expansion of colonisation acts like a pincer movement, slow and relentless, and closing Shuhada Street was a forceddisplacement, ironically, after Palestinians were massacred in the mosque by an ultra-extremist settler from the nearby settlement at Kiryat Arbat around 1995.
USA announcement that settlements are not illegal has intensified Zionist colonisation activity and even Shuhada Street is now earmarked for settler units.
As Amira Hass reported, in December 2019:
“Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (sent a letter to) the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. In the letter he instructed the Civil Administration to begin procedures for an urban renewal plan in the old Hebron market: in other words, to demolish the structure in which the Hebron municipality is a protected tenant, and to build in its place housing units for Jews.”
At the same time, the International Court of human rights is opening investigations into Israeli war crimes, but will meet fierce Israel/USA opposition.
See, by Ramzy Baroud
Pompeo has said that God has sent Trump to ‘save’ Israel; by which he means saved Israel for the Christians not for the Jews who will, according to Christian Zionism, will have to convert to Christianity (or presumably go to Hell).