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Israeli Officials Tour Hebron, Pledging to Help Palestinians


Israeli government and military officials toured Hebron this week, pledging to take measures to improve the lives of the Palestinian residents of the town.

On Sunday, Police Minister Moshe Shahal, Environment Minister Yossi Sarid and high-ranking Israel Defense Force and police officials toured the wholesale market area of Hebron, which was closed more than a year ago, after a Jewish settler opened fire on Muslim worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, killing 29 people.

Shahal, Sarid and the coordinator of IDF activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Oren Shahor, then met with Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natshe and Palestinian Authority officials at the civil administration building.

They later announced a serious of measures aimed at easing economic hardships in the town, including the immediate transfer of more than $200,000 to the municipality as compensation for lost revenue caused by the closing of the market.

Still unresolved was the fate of the market, which remains closed because of security concerns. The wholesale vegetable market is adjacent to the Jewish enclave in Hebron.

Shahal said Israel had proposed a possible solution to open the market for a different kind of merchandise, “so friction will be minimized and problems of trucks” will be solved.

The mayor and his colleagues said they would think about it, Shahal said, adding that the group would meet again in three weeks.

Sarid said the site would not be used for any purpose not approved by the Palestinians.

Natshe said he hoped that solutions to be problems would be found.

“We feel that the Israeli side is starting to understand our suffering and we hope that continuous meetings will solve all the problems in the city,” he said.

As a result of the meetings, Israeli officials agreed to the Palestinian request that the daily number of Muslim worshipers allowed into the Tomb of the Patriarchs be increased. Shahal announced that 2,000 worshipers would now be let in daily, up from 450.

Jewish settlers, meanwhile, complained that the Israeli officials did not meet with them during the visit. They also warned of the security risks to settlers if the market were reopened.

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