x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Palestinians clash with Israelis over holy sites

Around 100 Palestinians clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank over a plan to renovate two deeply contested holy sites in the occupied territory.

Palestinian children run to take cover during clashes. Mahmoud Abbas warned earlier this week that the region could plunge into a
Palestinian children run to take cover during clashes. Mahmoud Abbas warned earlier this week that the region could plunge into a "religious war" over the Israeli plan.

Around 100 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Hebron today over an Israeli plan to renovate two deeply contested holy sites in the occupied territory. Young men hurled rocks at soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber bullets in running clashes near the disputed Ibrahimi mosque (Tomb of the Patriarchs), according to an AFP correspondent who saw four Palestinians detained by soldiers. An Israeli military spokeswoman said "several illegal riots are taking place in a number of places around Hebron."

"The protesters are burning tyres and throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli security forces, who are responding with crowd-dispersal means," she said. There were no immediate reports of anyone hurt on either side. It was the fourth day of clashes in the town following Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Bilal Ibn Ribah mosque/Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem would be included in a heritage restoration plan.

The decision infuriated Palestinians, with senior officials in the West Bank saying it could prevent the resumption of US-led peace talks and the Islamist Hamas in Gaza calling on Palestinians to "rise up" against Israel. The Hebron site, revered by Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the biblical patriarch Abraham, has frequently been the scene of violent tensions. A few hundred hardline Jewish settlers live under heavy Israeli military protection near the site in the heart of the town of 160,000 Palestinians.

Israelis worship in a part of the Ibrahimi mosque above the tomb which has been converted into a synagogue. The mosque was the site of the infamous 1994 shooting massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers by the US-born Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein. * AFP