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Settler praying atop the disputed house
Photo: Adi Sastial
Soldier painting over mosque graffiti
Photo: Reuters
Security forces brace as settlers arrive in droves to Hebron
Tens of thousands expected to enter West Bank city over weekend, with many planning to remain in disputed house intended for evacuation. Settler violence against troops has escalated sharply over past few days, rattling nighttime footage captures rioting mob attacking security forces

Security forces deployed throughout Hebron on Thursday evening in anticipation of another night of public disturbances in the West Bank city by extreme-right activists. Although the High Court's ruling on the

evacuation of the disputed house near the Tomb of the Patriarchs has not yet been carried out, tensions between Jewish settlers and law enforcement are at a boiling point.

 

The IDF, Border Guard and the police have all reinforced their men on the ground in preparation for the arrival of some 20,000 people to Hebron ahead of the reading of the 'Chayei Sarah' weekly portion (lit. 'The Life of Sarah,' Genesis 23:1-25:18).

 

The army spread out in advance following the events of Wednesday night. Throughout the day several isolated incidents were noted, and in the evening settlers claimed a policeman had assaulted a boy in the Givat Avot neighborhood after charging the latter was in violation of a house arrest. Police confirmed a youth was detained for questioning after he insulted a policeman.

 

Business as usual?

But despite the apparent tensions Noam Arnon, a spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, said there was hope the night would progress calmly. The Shabbat of 'Chayei Sarah' is one of ten days in the Jewish year when Jews are allowed into Isaac's Hall, the largest and most important chamber of those comprising the Tomb of the Patriarchs. For most of the year Jews are forbidden to enter it. Due to the rarity of the occasion, the city often sees an influx of tens of thousands during this time.

 

"We expect about 20,000 people to come to Hebron, and we're preparing of that as we do every year. Every family will host several dozen guests and the schools and public institutions will also be filled with guests, and there are public mess halls and hostels that open up," said Arnon.

 

Although most of those who come to Hebron to pray will leave with the conclusion of the Sabbath, Arnon realizes that some, mostly teenagers, will choose to stay and join numerous others at the disputed house in an attempt to prevent its evacuation.

 

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter pledged on Thursday that the High Court's ruling on the matter of the disputed house would be carried precisely as it was written.

 

Dichter told Ynet that, as determined in the ruling, the house "will be evacuated within 30 days' time and guardianship of the property would be assumed by the state."

 

Rioting caught on video

A video sent to Ynet of the events of Wednesday night showcases just how far the situation has deteriorated, with extreme-right activists attacking military vehicles and rioting in the streets.

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An IDF soldier was lightly wounded in the mob assault, after he was doused with turpentine near the disputed house. In the video, shot with a video provided by the B'Tselem human rights organization, right-wing activists are seen swarming military cars and clashing with soldiers. Several military and police vehicles sustained varying degrees of damage.

 

Thursday saw IDF soldiers spending several long hours painting over graffiti, hate slogans aimed at Muslims, from the walls of a local mosque. Settlers also desecrated a Muslim graveyard on Wednesday evening.

 

Security officials issued a harsh condemnation of the events, and pledged they would throw the book at the perpetrators. However no suspects have been arrested thus far.

 

Earlier this week the High Court of Justice upheld the state's decision to evacuate the four-storey building near the Tomb of the Patriarchs until the dispute over its ownership clears up. Settlers claim they lawfully purchased the property, but the state says it suspects the documents of being forged.

 

Meanwhile right-wing activists continue to pour into the house, and have vowed to make their stand there.

 


First published: 20.11.08, 20:26
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