During the month of February Palestinians in Hebron commemorated the 20th anniversary of two tragic events which continue to haunt lives and curtail freedoms in the city: The closing of Shuhada street and the massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque.
Early on the morning of February 25 during the month of Ramadan 1994 US-born Israeli military physician Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron armed with a rifle. Hundreds were inside the mosque in prayer at the time. Goldstein opened fire on the kneeling worshipers, reloading at least once. By the time worshipers stopped him 29 had been killed and more than 100 injured.
Since the Goldstein Massacre, Israeli Occupation forces in Hebron have consistently moved to restrict Palestinian movement in the city. Shortly after the Massacre vehicles were banned from Shuhada Street, a once-vibrant residential and market street which served as a hub and gathering place for the Old City of Hebron. During the second Intifada in 2000 Israel completely closed off Shuhada street to Palestinians. Owners of shops and homes on the street were no longer able to use their doors, and over 300 shops and warehouses were closed. Homes which did not have alternative access, such as over a roof or through another building, had to be abandoned. Meanwhile settlements in Hebron continue to expand. Currently settlers are in the process of trying to take an additional five buildings near the Ibrahimi Mosque and Hebron residents fear their goal is to cut off the Mosque completely to Palestinians.
This year residents of Hebron’s Old City commemorated the anniversary with two events. On Friday February 21 The Hebron Defense Committee and Youth Against Settlements staged a march Sheikh Ali al-Bakaa mosque towards the eastern entrance of Shuhada street, but Israeli forces began firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters at demonstrators as they reached Bab al-Baladiya area. During clashes throughout the remainder of the day 13 were injured, including a reporter from B’tselem who was injured in the head with a rubber bullet. At least five protesters were detained or arrested by Israeli forces over the course of the clashes.
On February 25 three members of the Knesset and leaders of the Peace Now and Merritz parties attempted to visit one of the few Palestinian families still living on Shuhada street, near Quortuba School. The group was prevented from visiting the house by soldiers at a checkpoint near the school, and was heckled and harassed throughout their short visit on Shuhada street by Israeli settlers.