The Israeli troops stationed inside the Ibrahimi mosque in the occupied
Palestinian town of Hebron, apparently disturbed by an increase in
worshippers entering the mosque since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan
began yesterday, arbitrarily decided to close the mosque until further

The soldiers stationed at the Mosque, all of them between 18 and 22 years old, stated that they wanted to make sure that the Jewish settlers living illegally in Hebron would be able to celebrate their holiday of Rosh Hashanah in peace.

Before closing the Mosque, the Israeli soldiers had intensified their search and seizure measures at the entryway to the Mosque on Saturday, then increased restrictions on who would be allowed to enter, then finally closed the mosque completely as the devout continued to line up to gain entry into their holy site to pray during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Ibrahimi Mosque is a site of long-standing tension between the 5,000 Israeli settlers who invaded Hebron since the late 1970s and taken over buildings in the city of 250,000 Palestinians.

In 1994, 29 Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron were gunned down by Baruch Goldstein, with Israeli soldiers looking on and allowing the gunman to reload his automatic machine gun and continue killing innocent civilians.  In response to that massacre, the Israeli authorities punished the Palestinian victims by taking over the Ibrahimi mosque and turning half of it into a synagogue, where Israeli settlers go to pray each week.  And each year, on the anniversary of the massacre, Israeli settlers in Hebron dress up like Baruch Goldstein and parade through the streets of Hebron, firing guns in the air.

Sheikh Maher Masoudi, the Imam of the Mosque, charged that the latest Israeli order, to close the Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, is an attempt to limit the numbers of Muslims frequenting the Mosque in preparation to turn it into a synagogue.

Followers of Baruch Goldstein, himself a devotee of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Kach movement, have long called for "the transfer of Israel's Arab [Palestinian] population to Arab (or other) lands."  Many of the 5,000 Israeli settlers living in Hebron are part of the Kach movement, and have openly stated their intent to turn the Ibrahimi Mosque into a synagogue.  After the 1994 massacre of Muslims succeeded in bringing them halfway to their goal (with the Israeli government turning half the Mosque into a synagogue), Palestinians fear more such massacres.  With the Israeli government turning a blind eye to the nearly-daily attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the Hebron area, their fear may not be unfounded.

Just two weeks ago, Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba, east of Hebron, began construction of a new road, which they call 'the worshippers road' to connect the settlement with the Ibrahimi mosque (called by the settlers the 'Tomb of Patriarchs') in the city of Hebron, seizing dozens of acres of Palestinian land and razing ancient Palestinian olive groves in the process.