Tensions Escalate in Hebron As Israelis, Palestinians Clash

Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian residents of Hebron are flaring again.

Some 30 Jewish settlers temporarily moved into empty buildings in the West Bank town of Hebron on Sunday to protest Palestinian violence in the city’s Jewish quarter.

Israeli security forces later asked the settlers to leave the site, and most did so voluntarily.

The settlers said the action was intended to draw attention to what they view as inadequate security measures for them, and called for Israeli soldiers to be stationed in the city’s market, which abuts the Jewish area.

“This was a reaction to the total abandonment of the Jewish people of Hebron,” David Wilder, the administrative assistant for the Jewish community of Hebron, told Israel Radio. “The army has refused to take any actions to protect us.”

On Friday, two pipe bombs were thrown at a kindergarten in the Avraham Avinu complex. No one was hurt, but the action sparked clashes between the city’s Jewish and Palestinian residents.

Those incidents occurred a day after an Israeli woman was wounded in a terrorist shooting in the West Bank. Yael Mebar, who remains in critical condition, was shot in an area under Israeli security control — the gunmen are believed to have fled to areas under Palestinian control.

In Hebron, tensions have been high with the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — Palestinian residents have complained about the large presence of Israeli troops, especially near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday that security must be stepped up in the city to prevent confrontation. However, the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, was quoted as saying that stationing another battalion in Hebron would not prevent attacks.

Under the Hebron accord, Israel handed over control of about 80 percent of the town to the Palestinians a year ago.

Israel maintains control over the Jewish area of the town, where a population of about 450 resides.

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