The city's Palestinian residents are no strangers to blocked roads, limited movement and restricted passageways. Nineteen years after the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs, Israel is expanding the segregation which is now reaching new heights.
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Security forces have recently tightened retrictions on Palestinian movement in one of the streets in the al-Salaymeh neighborhood leading to the Cave of the Patriarchs which has two barriers, Ynet has learned.
Jewish residents are allowed to cross the road by vehicle, but Palestinians are now only permitted to cross by foot or by bicycle.
In September, security forces placed a fence along the road; dividing it into two – on one side, a road and on the other side, a narrow pedestrian walkway. Palestinians have been directed to walk along the narrow, unpaved passageway.
Separation in Hebron (Photo: Peace Now)
A video by B'Tselem shows the fence being erected and police preventing the passage of Palestinian pedestrians on the road. A Border Guard officer is seen directing a Palestinian man to the path, claiming that the paved road is intended "for Jews only".
"This side is for Jews and that's for Arabs," he is heard saying. Asked about the separation, the officer replied, "Those are the rules." In another instance, a Border Guard officer told a Palestinian that "The law says you have to go to the other side. This side's for Jews and that's for Arabs."
Some of the area's Jewish residents expressed their astonishment at the building of the fence and its location. A Kiryat Arba resident who prays at the Cave of the Patriarchs on a regular basis admitted that "it was hard to find someone here who opposes this, but let's just say, deciding to put the fence here, where it is located, is a bit strange.
"In any case, the large mass of Muslim worshippers comes from the other side of the cave, so apart from maintaining separation between Jews who come here and Arabs who pass by, I have no explanation for this.
"I guess the army is planning something for days in which the cave is bustling, so they will use the fence to allow a more secure entrance."
Building WallsOne of the combat soldiers who serves in the area also found the new guidelines odd, remarking that "aside from causing them to walk behind the fence, it has no special importance. Maybe on the days of mass prayer it will help regulate movement."
According to him, "What we were told is not to allow them to pass in the direction of the cave square, where the Jews walk. The truth is that most choose not to pass that way anyway and it is even a bit annoying to tell them each time to pass behind the fence. What happens is that they intentionally do things to push our buttons or to protest and we bring them back, it's a kind of silly cat and mouse game".
Peace Now said in response, "No PR campaign will erase the shame and disgrace created by the reality in the territories. With settler pressure, the government continues building walls and fences of racism and officially promotes a policy of separation between Jews and Arabs."
B'Tselem noted that "Unlike the case of buses, where separation has only now been introduced, in Hebron, this is the official policy and the army has recently started intensifying it."
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that the fence serves a security role and is intended to prevent uncontrolled entrance into the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Itamar Fleishman contributed to this report
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