The security forces responded with crowd dispersal means. There were no reports of injuries. One of the protestors was arrested and taken in for questioning. IDF sources said some of the protestors were carrying Hamas flags.
The clashes began at the end of the Friday prayers, which were led by Palestinian Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud al-Habbash. He said the Cave of the Patriarchs was located within the Palestinian Authority and was therefore under Palestinian control.
The prayer was attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who defined the Israeli decision as "a political move strengthening the Palestinians' devotion to their land and holy places." Fayyad said that despite Israel's move, the Palestinians would continue to build their state. Following the prayer, he visited the Hebron Old City Rehabilitation Committee.
Palestinian organizations declared a day of popular protest across the territories, particularly in Bethlehem and Hebron. The Muslims are also marking Prophet Muhammad's birthday and the 16th anniversary of the Baruch Goldstein massacre in Hebron, which left 29 Palestinians killed. The combination of events may lead to an escalation, and Palestinian Authority officials have warned that thing may get out of control.
Earlier Friday, clashes broke out in the West Bank between the security forces and Palestinian and left-wing activists who hurled stones at the security forces near the town of 'Asira al-Qibliya, southwest of Nablus. The forces responded with crowd dispersal means.
The clashes broke out as activists from the Combatants for Peace and Rabbis for Human Rights organizations arrived in the village to plant trees in solidarity with the village's residents. A clash erupted between Palestinians and settlers, and IDF soldiers were dispatched to the area to separate between the two camps. There were no injuries in the incident.
In a conversation with Ynet, Palestinian Parliamentarian Abu-Ali Yatta said that designating the Cave of the Patriarchs as a heritage site is an Israeli attempt to divert attention from domestic problems and the pressure exerted on Jerusalem to renew peace talks.
"It's typical for the Israelis, every time the need to renew negotiations is brought up, to produce a crisis in order to divert the pressure and attention," he said. "One time it's the Iranian nuclear program, another time it's the question of these sites, and all of it is aimed at buying time and evading international pressure to resolve the conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Efrat Weiss and Shmulik Grossman contributed to this report