A guide to the Gaza Strip

From Israel’s occupation to a decade of siege, here is all you need to know about ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’.

The Israeli siege on Gaza has devastated Gaza’s economy and led to what the UN has called the ‘de-development’ of the territory  

The Gaza Strip, home to two million Palestinians, is frequently on the news. The small enclave is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and has been aptly described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.

It is a small self-governing Palestinian territory that came under Israeli occupation, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Bordered by Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, the strip is about the size of the US city of Detroit – about 360sq km.

Gaza was part of historic Palestine before the state of Israel was created in 1948 in a violent process of ethnic cleansing, expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.

It was captured by Egypt during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and remained under Egyptian control until 1967, when Israel seized the remaining Palestinian territories in a war with the neighbouring Arab countries.

Gaza is but one of the focal points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although it is part of the Israeli-occupied territories, the Gaza Strip was severed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem when Israel was created. A range of Israeli restrictions have since been created that further compartmentalise the Palestinian territories.

Siege

The Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip, in its current form, has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed an airtight land, sea and air blockade on the area.

Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.

Movement of people in and out of the Gaza Strip takes place through the Beit Hanoun (known to Israelis as Erez) crossing with Israel, and the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Both Israel and Egypt have kept their borders largely shut, and are responsible for further deteriorating the already-weakened economic and humanitarian situations.

Israel allows passage through the Beit Hanoun crossing only in “exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on urgent medical cases”.

According to a 2016 United Nations report, the Rafah crossing had been continuously closed since October 2014, including for humanitarian assistance, except for 72 days of partial openings.

According to the same report, one-third of exit permit applications for medical treatment outside of Gaza submitted in 2016 were rejected or delayed by Israel.

But Israel has restricted the movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza for much longer than the past 10 years. Starting in the late 1980s with the eruption of the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, Israel began to impose restrictions by introducing a permit system that required Palestinians in Gaza to get difficult-to- obtain permits to work or travel through Israel or access the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Since 1993 in particular, Israel has used “closure” tactics on the Palestinian territories on a regular basis, at times barring any and all Palestinians in certain areas from leaving, sometimes for months at a time.

In 1995, Israel built an electronic fence and concrete wall around the Gaza Strip, facilitating a collapse in interactions between the split Palestinian territories.

In 2000, when the Second Intifada erupted, Israel cancelled many of the existing travel and work permits in Gaza, and significantly reduced the number of new permits issued.


READ MORE: Gaza – a life under occupation


In 2001, Israel bombed and demolished the Gaza airport, only three years after it opened.

Four years later, in what Israel called the “disengagement” from Gaza, some 8,000 Jewish Israelis living in illegal settlements in Gaza were pulled out from the Strip.

Israel claims that its occupation of Gaza ceased since it pulled its troops and settlers from the territory, but international law views Gaza as occupied territory since Israel has full control over the space.

In 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won general elections and seized power in a violent conflict with its rival, Fatah, after the latter refused to recognise the outcome of the vote. Since Hamas’ rise to power in 2007, Israel has severely intensified its siege.

A woman waits for a travel permit to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing after it was opened for four days by Egyptian authorities, in the southern Gaza Strip June 1, 2016

Israel’s blockade has cut off Palestinians from their main urban centre, Jerusalem, which hosts specialised hospitals, foreign consulates, banks and other vital services, even though the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords stated that Israel must treat the Palestinian territories as one political entity, not to be divided.

By blocking travel to East Jerusalem, Israel is also cutting off Christian and Muslim Palestinians in Gaza from accessing their centres of religious life.

Families have been ripped apart, youth have been denied the opportunity to study and work outside of Gaza, and many have been denied their right to obtain necessary healthcare.

The blockade contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment and prevents the realisation of a broad range of human rights.

Humanitarian situation

Israel’s siege on Gaza has devastated its economy and led to what the UN has called the “de-development” of the territory, a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed.

About 42 percent of Palestinians in Gaza suffer from poverty, youth unemploymentstands at 58 percent, and some 80 percent rely on international aid, mainly food supply, according to the World Bank.

“Even more shocking is the reality that most of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are confined to an area of 160sq km and are not able to travel beyond this area without permits,” Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank country director for West Bank and Gaza, said in a 2015 report.

More than 60 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, expelled from their homes in other parts of Palestine in 1948, in places such as Lod and Ramle, and now live just a few kilometres away from their original homes and towns.

A Palestinian woman and her child look out of the window of their shelter in Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, July 29, 2016

The siege has led to shortages of basic items, like food and fuel. It has also stymied Gaza’s potential for long-term economic development. Chronic problems, such as access to education, healthcare and clean water, have become more pronounced.

Since the beginning of the siege, Israel has launched three protracted military assaults on Gaza: in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Each of these attacks has exacerbated Gaza’s already dire situation. Tens of thousands of homes, schools and office buildings have been destroyed.

Rebuilding has been next to impossible because the siege prevents construction materials, such as steel and cement, from reaching Gaza.

Over the years, Israeli missile attacks and ground incursions have also damaged Gaza’s pipelines and sewage treatment infrastructure. As a result, sewage often seeps into drinking water, which has resulted in a sharp increase in waterborne disease.

More than 90 percent of Gaza’s water has been rendered unsafe for drinking.

Plans to improve Gaza’s water quality have been thwarted by the ongoing power crisis. Water projects are among the largest consumers of electricity. Without enough power to maintain existing water and sanitation systems, it is impossible to build new ones.

Many homes in Gaza rely on electric pumps to push water to the top of the building. No electricity for them means no water.

Power cuts have had a devastating effect on Gaza’s students. At home, they are forced to study by gas lamp or candlelight. This hinders their ability to concentrate and learn. Generators can power lights, but are loud and often lack enough fuel to power them. At school, blackouts mean food rots, latrines are left dirty, and there is no clean water for washing hands.

One of the most vulnerable groups affected by the siege are those with chronic illnesses. In 2016, Israel approved fewer than 50 percent of requests to exit the Gaza Strip through the Beit Hanoun crossing for medical treatment abroad.

Israel’s blockade has set the stage for a profound humanitarian catastrophe. The UN recently warned conditions are deteriorating at such a rapid pace that, if the current situation continues, Gaza could be uninhabitable by the year 2020.

Hamas rule

Founded in 1987, Hamas emerged during the First Intifada that saw a popular mobilisation of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation.

On January 25, 2006, Hamas defeated Mahmoud Abbas’ long-dominant Fatah party in parliamentary elections. Hamas then kicked Fatah out of the Strip after the latter refused to recognise the vote’s results. Since 2007, Hamas and Fatah have ruled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively.

Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, is led by President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected in 2005.

Hamas defines itself as a Palestinian Islamic national liberation and resistance movement, aiming to “liberate Palestine and confront the Zionist project”.


READ MORE: UN warns of Gaza’s ‘total collapse’ amid power crisis


While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the liberation of all of historic Palestine, including present-day Israel, it recently released a new political document, in which the movement stated it would accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes.

Hamas does not recognise the state of Israel’s legitimacy and has chosen armed resistance as its method for the liberation of the territories.

Israeli assaults on Gaza

After laying siege on Gaza in 2007, Israel launched three major, sustained assaults on the area between 2008 and 2014.

The assaults destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure, including Gaza’s sole power plant. The Strip has been experiencing an electricity crisis for a decade, with most homes, businesses, and hospitals receiving power intermittently – at times, only up to three hours a day.

gaza electricity infographic

Fuel needed to generate power, food, and water shortages are also a constant reality for residents of the Strip. Tens of thousands of people in Gaza, including refugees, live in tents. Israel bans the entry of vital building material, such as steel and cement, and other construction goods.

In 2008, after Hamas pushed out Fatah, the first major Israeli assault on Gaza continued for 23 days. Referred to by Israel as “Operation Cast Lead”, 47,000 homes were destroyed and more than 1,440 Palestinians were killed, including at least 920 civilians.

In 2012, Israeli forces killed 167 Palestinians, including 87 civilians, in an eight-day assault dubbed “Operation Pillar of Defense” by Israel. The death toll included 35 children and 14 women.

Gaza’s infrastructure was also heavily damaged; 126 houses were completely destroyed, and schools, mosques, cemeteries, health and sports centres, and media institutions were also hit, among other structures.

Two years later, in 2014, over a span of 50 days, Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians and close to 500 children.

During the assault, dubbed by the Israelis as “Operation Protective Edge”, about 11,000 Palestinians were wounded, 20,000 homes were destroyed and half a million displaced from their homes.

Palestinian schoolgirls walk past the remains of a residential building, destroyed during 2014 war in the northern Gaza Strip on February 10, 2016

(Source / 07.07.2017)

PA security forces shut down youth conference in Ramallah

Image of Palestinian police forces in West Bank [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Image of Palestinian police forces in West Bank

Organisers of the knowledge and mobility youth conference have condemned the Palestinian Authority security forces decision to prevent them from holding the conference in the city of Ramallah for alleged “security reasons”.

The Coordinator of the youth bureau of Al-Sharq Forum, Alaa Abed, said in an interview with Quds Press yesterday that security services warned them that if the conference goes ahead they will raid the venue. Abed added that the preparatory committee has worked for five months to organise a conference that draws attention to Palestinian issues.

Read: PA reducing funds for Gazan to access medical care says Israel 

The decision to ban the conference contradicts Article 11 of Palestinian Basic Law, says Abed, which guarantees citizens that their freedoms will not be restricted or violated so long as they don’t conflict with the law.

Abed said that the conference scheduled to take place in the Gaza Strip on Friday and Saturday will go ahead as planned in recognition of the efforts made by participating youth.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

Cybercrime law draws mixed reactions among Palestinians

A Palestinian man looks at the Facebook page of Avichay Adraee, the spokesman of the Israeli army to the Arabic media, after hackers replaced his cover photo with that of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades during the #Op_Israel campaign launched by the activist group Anonymous, in Gaza City, Gaza, April 7, 2013

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently approved a law to battle cybercrime in the West Bank, but some journalists and citizens worry ulterior motives might be involved.

The version of the bill Abbas signed June 24 isn’t the one journalists and the public were expecting, said Nabhan Khreisheh, a member of the Union of Palestinian Journalists’ General Secretariat. He told Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper June 27 that the law is a “retrograde step” designed to intimidate Palestinians and keep them from criticizing the political system.

The law undermines freedom of expression online, he said, contending that it was passed in part so authorities could block more than 11 websites affiliated with Hamas and parliament member Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival.

The new law regulates online transactions, media websites and social networking sites, imposing fines on those violating public order or inciting hatred on these websites. It states, “Anyone who has established a website, disseminated information on the internet or any information technology tool, promoting ideas and programs violating the public order and morals, [will] be sentenced to prison for a period of no less than five years.”

Police, however, see the new law as a helpful tool, as previous laws didn’t specifically address cybercrime.

“The legal and judicial importance of the law stems from the fact that it deals with cybercrimes, which have been on the increase in the Palestinian territories in recent years,” Palestinian police spokesman Louay Azriqat in Ramallah told Al-Monitor.

The year 2015 witnessed 502 cases of cybercrimes committed against individuals and institutions in the West Bank. In 2016, that number jumped to 1,327. By the end of the first half of 2017, police had received 700 cybercrime reports, according to Azriqat. And those are just the reported crimes.

Among individuals (as opposed to institutions and businesses), 37% of cybercrime victims are females, according to police statistics, and young people are most vulnerable to cybercrimes.

Police have a Cybercrime Unit comprised of an officer and engineers with extensive experience in the field to follow up on reports of crimes committed against individuals, in cooperation with the public prosecutor.

Azriqat cited a recent case in which police arrested a young Palestinian man May 21 in the city of Nablus who is now charged with online fraud for allegedly blackmailing a young woman.

“They had started chatting online and he promised he would marry her. She sent him some of her private photos, which he used to blackmail her, threatening to publish them online if she didn’t pay him the money,” Azriqat told Al-Monitor.

According to police, the man first demanded $25,000. After she paid, he demanded another $68,000. She reportedly told police she stole the money from her parents, before eventually filing a complaint with police. Azriqat said police arrested the man, but he has not been tried yet. Some of the money was recovered.

Punishment under the previous law, ranging from one week to six months in prison, wasn’t strong enough to be a deterrent, Azriqat added.

Lina Abdel Hadi, Nablus governorate legal director, told Al-Monitor that the cases currently pending before the court will be tried under the new law. In some cases, offenders will face jail time only, but when money was extorted and/or psychological damage can be shown, the offender will have to financially compensate the victim and face a jail sentence.

Hadi said, “The new cybercrime law will compensate those who were previously subjected to [such] crimes, whether a person or an institution, and who were not granted their rights” because the previous law was outdated.

The most common types of cybercrimes in Palestine, according to Hadi, include sexual extortion; running websites for prostitution, child trafficking and drug trafficking; spreading online viruses; hacking; fraud; and identity theft.

She stressed that many Palestinian activist groups demanded the new law, noting the inadequacy of the old one.

Palestinian officials and civil organizations have worked to increase public awareness of the dangers of cybercrimes through educational seminars, as well as newsletters distributed via various social networks and websites.

Fadi Shadid, a criminal law professor at An-Najah National University, said the new law was issued based on the urgent need to confront the high rates of cybercrime and the absence of clear legal provisions to address cybercrimes in light of the electronic revolution.

“There is a saying worldwide that goes: There is neither crime nor penalty except as provided by law,” he added. He pointed out that many people are not punished after committing cybercrimes, because there has been no legal text criminalizing their actions, and he stressed the need to address this phenomenon. “Several Gulf countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, promulgated laws to face cybercrimes years ago,” he told Al-Monitor.

Shadid further noted that there will certainly be obstacles as the law is implemented, especially since it will apply to new and untested situations. Criminals may flee before they can be prosecuted, and even afterward, and “there is no cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel for the extradition of wanted persons who have been convicted of criminal charges.” Also, cybercrimes can be perpetrated from anywhere.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

Hakim Calls for Forming a Task Force to Aid Syrian Civil Defense

Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Nazir Hakim met with Director of the Syrian Civil Defense Raed Saleh at the headquarters of the Coalition in Istanbul on Thursday.

The meeting discussed a mechanism for communication and coordination to facilitate the work of the civil defense corps, known as the “White Helmets.” It also discussed ways to make use of the outcome of the conference held on 28 June in Germany on the elimination of chemical and biological weapons. Syrian civilians have suffered a lot as a result of the Assad regime’s repeated use of these weapons.

Hakim called for the formation of military, medical, political, and humanitarian teams to aid the civil defense and medical teams in carrying out their duties, provide services to the civilian population and save lives during attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.

Hakim stressed the need for coordination between the White Helmets and the Coalition to better serve the civilian population and alleviate their suffering.

Moreover, Hakim stressed the need to gather evidence on the Assad regime’s use of these prohibited weapons to be presented during the upcoming “NCT USA 2017” conference which will be held in Washington on 19-21 September. He also suggested the submission of a joint letter between the Coalition and the White Helmets on the crimes being committed by the Assad regime and its supporters against civilians in Syria and the need to protect civilians and consolidate the ceasefire agreement.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 07.07.2017)

Majority of Palestinians oppose Abbas’ actions against Gaza

Image of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on February 13, 2017 [Issam Rimawi /Anadolu Agency]

Image of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 13 February 2017

The results of a public poll conducted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have revealed that the vast majority of the Palestinian public reject the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) actions in the Gaza Strip.

The results of the survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research yesterday revealed that 84 per cent of the respondents oppose the PA’s suspension of payments for Gaza electricity while 88 per cent oppose the authority’s decision to suspend paying the salaries of Gaza employees.

Forty per cent of the respondents say the move aims to impose economic pressure on Gazans to force them to reject Hamas’ rule while 37 per cent say it aims to force them to accept its conditions for reconciliation.

Read: PA orders Hamas to abide by Abbas’ plan

The poll results, which took place between 29 June and 1 July 2017 indicate that the vast majority – 91 per cent – opposes the suspension of paying prisoners salaries while nearly half of them believes the PA will succumb to foreign pressure and stop the payments. The survey shows that 50 per cent believe the formation of a joint administration for the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah’s suspended member, Mohammed Dahlan, will lead to a complete separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thirty-eight per cent did not expect this to lead to complete separation.

The survey shows that 50 per cent believe the formation of a joint administration for the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Fatah’s suspended member, Mohammed Dahlan, will lead to a complete separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thirty-eight per cent did not expect this to lead to complete separation.

Forty-eight per cent opposed such an agreement between Hamas and Dahlan while 40 per cent supported it.

The centre noted that the percentage of support for the Hamas-Dahlan agreement in the Gaza Strip was 61 per cent compared to 29 per cent in the West Bank.

Gaza Strip was 61 per cent compared to 29 per cent in the West Bank.

The percentage of those who want President Mahmoud Abbas to resign was 62 per cent whilst 31 per cent want him to stay in office.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

UNESCO: al-Khalil 4th Palestinian site on World Heritage List

Al-Khalil UNESCO

Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Ma’ay’ah, announced on Friday registering the Old City of al-Khalil and the Ibrahimi Mosque on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The decision passed in the 41st meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Kraków makes al-Khalil the fourth Palestinian site registered in the List in addition to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Battir.

Ma’ay’ah described the resolution as a “historic achievement” that confirms the Palestinian identity of al-Khalil and the Ibrahimi Mosque and thus refuting the Israeli lies about the history of the city.

She added that this shall protect the Ibrahimi Mosque and the surrounding area from the Israeli attacks and continued Judaization operations.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities will seek UNESCO’s help to bring in development projects aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of al-Khalil and rehabilitating the tourism infrastructure there in order to promote it as a world heritage site that is worth visiting, Ma’ay’ah stated.

The Palestinian Ministry filed on 30th January 2017 a request to UNESCO to list al-Khalil as a world heritage site. On 21st May 2017, the Ministry filed an additional emergency request on the same issue because of the escalated Israeli aggressions on the Old City of al-Khalil and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

With a history of more than 6,000 years, al-Khalil is one of the oldest Palestinian cities that is considered the fourth holiest site for Muslims.

Spokesman of the Jordanian government, Mohammed al-Momani, hailed the UNESCO resolution which points to the illegality of the Israeli practices in the city.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

Six injuries reported in IOF quelling of Kafr Qaddum peaceful march

Kafr Qaddum protest 6 injured

Six Palestinian youths were injured Friday afternoon after Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) quelled the weekly peaceful march of Kafr Qaddum town near Qalqilya in the northern West Bank.

The anti-Separation Wall and anti-settlement march also demands the reopening of a main road closed by the IOF 14 years ago.

Local sources revealed that six young men were shot by Israeli rubber bullets, while many suffered suffocation due to IOF shooting of tear gas grenades.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

Israeli military exercise in preparation for new war on Gaza

Israeli soldiers are seen as they conduct a military drill in West Bank on April 4, 2017 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli soldiers are seen as they conduct a military drill on 4 April 2017

Thousands of Israeli ground units have been carrying out large-scale military exercises in the occupied Golan Heights in preparation for a war on the Gaza Strip, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The website stated that the training, which started earlier this week and ended yesterday, involved soldiers from units 50, 931 and 932 as well as the mobile unit of the occupation army. According to the Israeli website, the army documented the training using cameras mounted on helmets and aircraft.

Read: 3 years on from Gaza war, homes still in ruins

During the training, the troops simulated a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which would be the largest since the Israeli attack on the Strip in 2014.

The Nahal Brigade, whose forces participated in the previous attack on Gaza and in ground incursions into Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, participated in the training.

According to the Israeli newspaper, the troops simulated various combat scenarios and ground battles during the exercise, including “the occupation of a whole residential neighborhood” and “the clearance of multi-storey buildings”.

#GazaSiege

The exercises also included fighting in populated residential neighbourhoods, similar to those in the Gaza Strip. These exercises were held in the new settlement of Harish, which is being built in the heart of Wadi Ara on Palestinian land. More than 150,000 Israeli Jews will be settled.

The exercises also involved the 401 Brigade’s tanks and armors, engineering forces and unmanned drones. The exercises involved soldiers walking up to eight kilometers while carrying their military equipment.

The paper added that the Israeli army has also started experimenting with unmanned Hummers.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

Palestinian Killed After Being Hit By A Settler’s Car

07 JUL
11:52 AM

Palestinian medical sources have reported, Friday, that a man from the al-Khader town, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, was killed after being struck by an Israeli car at bypass road #60, west of Bethlehem.

Initial reports indicate that the Palestinian, identified as Omar Ahmad Issa, 37, was riding a motorcycle when he was struck by the Israeli car in what appears to be a traffic accident.

The Palestinian sells coffee at an intersection near where he was struck and killed.

Israeli medics were called upon the scene as the road is under full Israeli security and military control, and took him to an Israeli hospital.

Sources at the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) said that the Israeli side is demanding an autopsy, but the family is rejecting these demands.

Ahmad Salah, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Israeli Annexation Wall and Colonies in al-Khader, said it remains unknown whether the incident was a deliberate attack or merely a traffic accident.

Many Palestinians have been shot to death, especially since October of last year, under the pretexts of carrying out “deliberate ramming attacks,” after their cars crashed into Israeli vehicles, including army and police jeeps.

(Source / 07.07.2017)

UNESCO registers Hebron, Ibrahimi mosque on World Heritage in Danger list

Ibrahimi Mosque UNESCO list

Israeli forces patrol the environs surrounding the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to inscribe Hebron’s Old City and Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank on the World Heritage in Danger list on Friday, despite diplomatic efforts by Israel and the United States to block the move.

The resolution, filed by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Tourism, Hebron municipality, and Hebron rehabilitation committee, argued that Hebron’s Old City urgently needed protection from Israeli violations in the area that harmed the exceptional international value of the site.
Friday’s vote asserted that Hebron’s Old City and the mosque will be registered in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and also stated that the two sites are to be recognized as being in danger, meaning that each year UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will convene to discuss their case.
The Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release that UNESCO had made “the only logical and correct decision,” describing the move as a “victory for tolerance and diversity.”“This vote celebrated facts and rejected the shameless high-profile political bullying and attempts at extortion,” the ministry said, and argued that Hebron’s Old City and the mosque have been “under threat due to the irresponsible, illegal, and highly damaging actions of Israel, the occupying power, which maintains a regime of separation and discrimination in the city based on ethnic background and religion.”“Inscribing Hebron as World Heritage under threat rejects the exclusionary ideology that fought this inscription based on prejudice and the rejection of others,” the statement continued, and expressed gratitude for member states that approved the decision for “(promoting) tolerance, preserving world heritage, and (rejecting) the toxic tirades of exclusivity and exclusion.”
A statement released by the Palestinian Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Rula Maaya stressed the importance of the “historic event” that she said confirmed the Palestinian identity of Hebron and the Ibrahimi mosque, which “by its heritage and history, belongs to the Palestinian people.”
Maaya said the recognition would help protect the site from the “ongoing Israeli violations and continued attempts to Judaize the site,” and said the vote also represented a rejection of Israeli claims over the Ibrahimi mosque, which is known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The minister also claimed the inscription would benefit the Palestinian tourism sector by drawing visitors to the site, and would also attract development projects geared towards preserving Hebron’s cultural heritage and rehabilitating tourist infrastructure.
Palestinian authorities have planned to introduce the site for consideration on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for years, but recently decided to fast track the site’s application owing to routine Israeli violence in the Old City, which Palestinians have claimed threatens the integrity of the Ibrahimi Mosque, and instead propose the area as an endangered site.
Hebron’s Old City, which is under full Israeli military control, is home to some 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. The Ibrahimi Mosque, where the Prophet Abraham is believed to be buried, has been a focal point of violence for decades, as the site is holy to both Muslims and Jews and has been a prime site for Israeli settler activities in the area.
The holy site was split into a synagogue and a mosque after US-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians inside the mosque in 1994. Since the split, Muslim worshipers have been denied access to the site during Jewish holidays and vice versa in effort to prevent violence from erupting.
The resolution’s ultimate passage followed intense diplomatic efforts lead by Israel and the United States in opposition to inducting Hebron to the heritage list.
US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has repeatedly accused the UN of “bullying” Israel by focusing on its violations of international law, had insisted in a statement sent to the UNESCO Director-General and the UN Secretary-General that the Ibrahimi Mosque was not imperiled.
“The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is under no immediate threat,” Haley said. “Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have.”
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi denounced Haley for the statements, calling the ambassador a “one-woman crusade against Palestine at the UN.”
“(Haley’s) approach has been a consistent means of evasion to exclude and suppress any consideration of Palestinian grievances at the UN,” Ashrawi said. “By creating diversions and focusing on other issues, Miss Haley seems to believe that the UN should give Israel a free pass based on the logical fallacy that one injustice negates another.”
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and the chairman of the country’s committee to UNESCO, condemned Friday’s decision, saying that, “It’s disappointing and embarrassing to see UNESCO denying history and distorting reality time after time to knowingly serve those who try to wipe the Jewish state off the map,” he said.
“Israel won’t renew cooperation with UNESCO as long as it continues to serve as a tool for political attacks instead of a being a professional organization,” Israeli news daily Haaretz quoted the far-right minister as saying.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reacted by calling UNESCO a “politically slanted organization, disgraceful, and anti-Semitic, whose decisions are scandalous.”
“No decision by this irrelevant organization will undermine our historic right over the Tomb of the Patriarchs, or our right over the country. I hope that with the help of our great friend the United States, this organization is defunded,” he said, and claimed that the decision proved “the Palestinian Authority doesn’t seek peace but rather seeks to incite against and slander Israel.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli settlers residing in Hebron in contravention of international law reportedly called the decision “ridiculous” as well as “anti-Semitic,” and “typical of UNESCO’s bunch of ignoramuses who are consumed by hate,” according to Haaretz.
However, authors of the submission have insisted there was no attempt to deny Jewish links, emphasizing the move aimed rather to demonstrate the impact of the Israeli occupation on a site of international significance.
While a UNESCO report ahead of the vote contained criticism of the Palestinian submission for focusing too much on the Muslims in Hebron at the expense of its Jewish and Christian past, the UN agency said they couldn’t recommend a decision either way because Israel prevented experts from visiting the site.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee also adopted a resolution on Tuesday reaffirming the international body’s non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty in occupied East Jerusalem, and condemning Israeli policies in the Old City there.
In October 2016, UNESCO officially adopted a resolution criticizing Israeli policies around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque — also known as Rachel’s Tomb — in Bethlehem.
(Source / 07.07.2017)