Israeli forces expand area closed to foreigners in Hebron’s Old City

Published December 13th, 2015 - 12:01 GMT
Israeli forces walk through the streets of Hebron, in the West Bank. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Israeli forces walk through the streets of Hebron, in the West Bank. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

Israeli authorities early Sunday expanded a closed military zone in the area of Hebron’s Old City Sunday, preventing access to the headquarters of an activist group, a local activist said.

Issa Amr, head of the Youth Against Settlements group, told Ma’an that Israeli officials handed him a notification banning the presence or arrival of any persons to the area of the headquarters, excluding Palestinian residents.

The building -- known as Sumoud and Tahaddi (steadfastness and challenge) center -- lies in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of central Hebron, and borders one of the city's illegal Israeli settlements.

Foreign volunteers of the Youth Against Settlements group frequently document abuse by Israeli forces and settlers in the area, often filing complaints with the Israeli police.

"This step shows Israeli authorities are caving to the demands of the settlers, who are demanding the closure of the center,” Amro told Ma’an.

Amr said that the prevention of foreign activists from the area would enable Israeli settlers to freely carry out attacks on the local Palestinian community.

“This will unleash the settlers to attack the residents in the neighborhood,” Amro told Ma’an.

“In the absence of monitoring by human rights activists, the suffering of the local population will increase, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to violations of their rights and freedoms,” Amro continued.

The ban is expected to be in place until the new year, Amro added.

An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate information on the ban.

The activist headquarters has been subjected to frequent raids by both Israeli forces and settlers in the past.

In November, dozens of Israeli settlers stormed the headquarters and demanded that soldiers prevent any of the Youth Against Settlements staff and volunteers from approaching it.

The settler raid came hours after Israeli soldiers had held volunteers captive inside of the center, detaining Amro and one volunteer.

Hebron found itself at the center of violence since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October, with over 30 Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in the district since.

The Old City of Hebron where the Youth Against Settlement center is located -- known as “H2” -- is under the full control of the Israeli military.

Around 800 Israeli settlers live in the area, accompanied by thousands of Israeli soldiers, intermingled among around 30,000 local Palestinians.

Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah in November called for the presence of Palestinian security forces in al-Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida areas of Hebron in order to provide "security and protection" for Palestinians against Israeli settler assaults.

Such calls have yet to come to fruition.

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