Israeli security forces on Wednesday cancelled a policy of ethnic separation in Hebron for the second time.
A Ynet exclusive two years ago revealed that the IDF divided the main road leading to the Cave of the Patriarchs: The main section of the road limited entry exclusively to Jews, while a fenced side path was the only way for Palestinians to pass through. This policy was cancelled, but reinstated about two months ago.
A video attained by Ynet shows a Palestinian who works for the B'Tselem human rights organization attempting to use the main road and being halted by Border Police officers, who instruct him to go to the other side, which they said was meant for Muslims. "Only Jews come through here," an officer tells the Palestinian. When he asks why, she replies: "The captain decided. Jews here, only Jews, and only Muslims over there." When asked again why, the officer says, "Because."
The video shows the Palestinian insisting on using the road, but the officers prevent him. The officers explain that the two ways reach the same exact place, and at one point say that only elderly Muslims may use the main road, while children and adults must use the side path. When the Palestinian attempts to challenge them and continue walking down the road, they threaten to arrest him if he continues.
Nabila Jabri, a 45-year-old resident of Hebron, said she feels "humiliated when I walk on a path that is behind the fence and see the settlers walk through the main entrance; a screen separates us that has no justification for its existence."
Iman Abu Armaila, also from Hebron, said that over the past two years, the crossing has almost never been blocked. "The fact that we could walk on the wide side of the road slightly lessened our general suffering," she said. But now, she said, border guards force her to use the narrower path behind the fence.
Until the policy's renewal, security forces allowed Palestinian pedestrians and cyclists to use the road. In order to transport cargo, Palestinians had to use a horse-drawn cart or handcarts. Israeli citizens were and are permitted to use the road in cars or by foot.
B'Tselem said that "the situation at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is an allegory for the entire occupation – the settlers use a convenient road, while Palestinians who live in the area are allowed only to look at it from behind a fence, from the narrow and defective road they were forced into."
"The closure of the route is not in line with procedures in the area," an IDF spokesperson said.
"As soon as commanders were made aware of the incident, they handled it and opened the route. The IDF always works to enforce the law in Judea and Samaria, and to ensure normal life for all area residents."