Netanyahu to ‘strengthen’ settlements in Hebron

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 22 ordered the civil administration to allow settlers back into a stolen Palestinian property in Hebron, Israeli media reported. The move was in response to the killing of an Israeli soldier in Hebron earlier in the day, and Netanyahu announced Israel would “continue to fight terrorism…with one hand, while strengthening the settlement with the other,” according to Haaretz.

In 2001, two Jewish families from a nearby settlement broke into Palestinian stores in Hebron’s Old City and began living there. Israel’s military issued an eviction order to the settlers, who appealed to a military committee, delaying the eviction. In 2010, Israeli rights group Peace Now petitioned the Israeli supreme court to enforce the evacuation order and last December Netanyahu’s government ordered that the settlers be evacuated by April 2013.

A 1997 agreement split Hebron into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control. The Israeli military-controlled H2 zone includes the ancient Old City, home of the revered Ibrahimi Mosque—also split into a synagogue referred to as the Tomb of the Patriarchs—and the once-thriving Shuhada street, now just shuttered shops fronts and closed homes. A large Israeli military force is stationed in Hebron to protect around 500 settlers who live among 30,000 Palestinians in the H2 area.

From Ma’an News Agency, Sept. 23

  1. Hebron fighting threatens renewed peace talks

    Israel's forces fired rubber bullets and  stun grenades at stone-throwing Palestinians in clashes at Hebron Sept. 23, as troops hunted for the suspected killer of an Israeli soldier.

    Israeli police said the soldier had been shot, "probably by terrorists," although the gunman had fled the scene. The shooting took place close to the volatile Ibrahimi Mosque — sacred to both Muslims and Jews—during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which  has seen thousands of Jewish visitors to the biblical city.

    On Sept. 21, Israeli troops discovered the body of another young soldier who had apparently been lured to a village in the northern West Bank and killed by a Palestinian man with whom he had worked in a seaside town near Tel Aviv.

    Senior cabinet minister Naftali Bennett said the two attacks should push Israel to reconsider its involvement in peace talks with the Palestinians. "Under the auspices of negotiation celebrations, Sukkot has turned into a festival of bloodshed and harm to Israeli soldiers," he said in a letter sent to Netanyahu. "There is no doubt that there have been unfortunate developments since the start of the negotiations, which require the government to reconsider its path."

    The Israeli government will hold a special session today to re-examine plans to release a second group of veteran Palestinian prisoners who have been in custody since before the Oslo Accord of 1994. Release of the prisoners had been announced as a good-will gesture for the resumed talks. (AFP, MNA, Sept. 23)