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Amid pandemic, Israel expands control over Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque

The recent expropriation of land near the flashpoint mosque comes amid ever increasing restrictions on Palestinian movement in the area, seen as part of Israeli annexation efforts

In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Palestinian residents of the Old City of Hebron, in the southern occupied West Bank, found themselves fighting another battle that, for them, holds far higher stakes than the spread of Covid-19. 

On 13 May, the Israeli military issued an expropriation order allowing construction to begin on an elevator project that would make a portion of the ancient Ibrahimi Mosque wheelchair accessible. 

“On the surface, making holy sites accessible to people with disabilities seems like a fine idea,” Aref Jaber, a local Palestinian activist and resident of the Old City, told Middle East Eye. “But in reality, this is just another dubious way for the Israeli government and settlers to steal more of our land and take it for themselves.”

The new elevator project, Jaber said, would swallow up more space of the already restricted Muslim side of the compound.

The Ibrahimi compound - known to Israelis as the Cave of the Patriarchs - was split into a mosque and synagogue following the 1994 massacre of dozens of Palestinian worshipers at the hands of Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein. 

Former Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett, who authorised the plan, also instructed the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body ruling over the West Bank, “to take all action necessary” to expropriate additional land around the sanctuary for the use of the accessibility project.  

“On top of taking more of our land and holy space, this elevator would only serve the Israeli settlers on the other side of the sanctuary,” Jaber said. 

“This is not about an elevator,” he continued. “It’s about stealing more land, bringing in more settlers, and kicking out more Palestinians. That’s what it’s always about with Israel.”

 

Source: Middle East Eye