A visit to Hebron, in the southern West Bank, by the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, was cut short on Monday when Israeli forces stopped the Archbishop from entering the central city.The Governor of the Hebron District, Kamel Hmeid, who accompanied the Archbishop on his tour, told reporters that the action of the Israeli military was meant to “prevent [the officials] from seeing the reality about the life of the Palestinian civilians in Hebron and and the humiliating treatment and violations they face on a daily basis by the Israeli settlers and soldiers.”
But Hmeid said the ban would have the opposite effect, encouraging officials like himself and Twal to demand their rights, and the rights of all Palestinians to travel freely and to live in their homes.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been displaced in the Hebron area, where the central city has been taken over by Israeli settlers over the past 20 years. Although 250,000 Palestinians live in the Hebron district, an estimated 700 Israeli settlers and 1,500 Israeli soldiers have control over two-thirds of the area.
The formerly bustling market on Al-Shuhada Street is now empty and under military control, a move which has had a devastating impact on the economy of Hebron.
According to Hebron Governor Hmeid, the soldiers stationed in Al-Shuhada Street checkpoint told the officials that they were not permitted to enter the central city, and only people holding IDs that identify them as residents of the central city are allowed to enter through the checkpoint.
Palestinians that have not yet been forced from their homes in central Hebron have reported daily abuse, violence and humiliation at the hands of the Israeli settlers who recently invaded the neighborhood and took over Palestinian homes. Settlers have beaten, spit on, thrown eggs, stones and bottles at Palestinians, and shout slurs and write graffiti on a daily basis. A number of the Palestinian families that still live there are unable to leave their homes through the front door due to the attacks by the Israeli settlers, and have to cross over rooftops of neighboring homes to exit and enter their homes.
Although the officials were prevented from visiting the central city, they managed to stop at other sites on the outskirts of the city, including Hebron University, where they met with Hebron University President Awni Al-Khatib and other professors and administrators.