The Israeli authorities announced that the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as Cave of the Patriarchs, will be closed to Muslim worshippers on Tuesday and Wednesday, for the Jewish holidays, the Ministry of Islamic Waqf,said on Monday.The mosque will be open only to Jews who will be celebrating the Jewish holidays, while Muslims will not be permitted access to pray as usual.
The ministry, in a press statement, called for the need to promptly move to put an end to Israeli violations and repetitive closures of the mosque, through which, it stressed, Israel aims to tighten its control over the holy site, and turn it into an exclusively Jewish site.
The ministry considered the closure a flagrant violation against Palestinian Muslims, and urged everyone to maintain presence at the mosque in order to challenge Israeli plans.
While both members of the faith attend separate prayer areas inside the mosque during normal times, Israel closes it for Muslims during Jewish holidays and for Jews during Muslim holidays.
Al-Ibrahimi Mosque is located in the old city of Hebron, few hundred meters away from the part of the city illegally occupied by around 400 extremist settlers, who are protected by about 1,500 Israeli soldiers.
Since 1967, al-Ibrahimi Mosque, like all other Muslim holy sites in Palestine, became a target for Israeli occupying forces and Zionist settlers, reported the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee.
In 1994, Israel divided al-Ibrahimi Mosque between Muslims and Jews, after US-born settler Baruch Goldstein opened gunfire at around 500 Palestinians during dawn prayer, ultimately killing 30.
Goldstein, an extremist settler from the illegal settlement of ‘Kiryat Arba’ settlement, who holds US and Israeli citizenship, opened machine-gun fire at Muslim worshippers during prayer. He killed 29 people and injured 135. On the same day outside the Mosque, the Israeli army opened fire towards fearful and panicky worshippers and killed at least ten civilians.
Following the incident, al-Ibrahimi Mosque was converted into a military post and later divided into two parts, one for Muslims and another for Jews. Thus, the Mosque became a point of conflict and constant tension that has marred its sanctity.
Nowadays, Israel controls Palestinians’ access to the mosque, prevents many from praying there on a regular basis and frequently bans the call for prayer under the pretext of disturbing the settlers.
The control is not only restricted to prayer at the mosque, but also calls for prayers through speakers. In January 2015 alone, the call for prayer was banned 51 times.
The Hebron Awqaf Directorate said that the policy of banning Muslims’ call for prayer is aimed at tightening the noose on Palestinians and stopping them from praying in the Mosque, subsequently driven them away from their city.