Mass protest: “Open Shuhada Street and lift the siege from the heart of Hebron”
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Mass protest: “Open Shuhada Street and lift the siege from the heart of Hebron”

In the mass protest in Hebron this Friday, Palestinian member of Knesset Mohammed Baraka was injured in his right leg and dozens of other Palestinians suffered further injuries as the occupation forces were shooting tear gas and sound bombs into the crowd to disperse the demonstration. The protest was called by the political forces in the governorate of Hebron, the Stop the Wall Campaign and the Committee for the defense of Hebron in the eighteenth anniversary of the massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque. The main demands of the mass rally were the opening of Shuhada Street and freedom of movement of Palestinians in Hebron.

Shuhada Street, the main commercial street of Hebron has been closed to Palestinian cars by the Israeli occupation forces since 1994 and since 2001 as well to Palestinian pedestrians. Israelis can still use the street. The initial closure happened in the aftermath of the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque, in which an Israeli settler killed 30 people and injured 270 while they were praying inside the mosque.

Hundreds of people participated in the demonstration that started after Friday prayers and marched through the neighborhood of Tel Rumeida. They raised  Palestinian flags and flags of the political parties as well as banners of Stop the Wall Campaign. Palestinians from inside the Green Line and international solidarity activists participated in the march.

 From Tel Rumeida the crowds set off towards Shuhada Street. As soon as the protestors reached the street, the occupation forces deployed in the street, in the nearby olive groves and on the roof tops started shooting dozens of tear gas canisters and sound bombs at them.  Clashes ensued and many were injured.

Yusuf Tameza relates that the timing of the attack by the occupation forces on the demonstration coincided with the passage of a funeral procession heading towards the Muslim cemetery nearby. The protesters opened the way to allow a safe passage for the funeral procession. However, even though the occupation forces had been alerted, they continued to throw tear gas, sound bombs and skunk water towards everybody, including the mourners in the funeral procession.

Among the injured was a woman from Tel Rumeida, aged about 65 years, and a member of the Palestinian National Council, Mohammed Amin Al-Jabari , and the two young activists, Fahmi Shahin, 16 years, who was injured due to inhalation of the gas and Rami Mahmoud Atauna, 33 years, who was wounded in the hand by a sound bomb.

“In the city of Hebron live about two hundred thousand Palestinians which are put under siege by the presence of some 400 settlers and 200 students in a Zionist religious school at the heart of the city. The settlers have formed six colonies situated along Shuhada Street. The majority of those involved in the attacks and acts of maltreatment against the population of the city of Hebron and the residents of areas surrounding the old city are settlers. The life of the population fraught with danger  at every corner", explains an activist in the Committee for the Defense of Hebron, Hisham Sharabati.

An activist of the movement inside the Green Line Tarabut,  Juhayna Seif, comments on the protest: "This struggle here is linked to the future of the Palestinian presence in Hebron in particular, and the Palestinian presence in the country in general. It is therefore of great importance because as Palestinians we have to have an influential role in the leadership of this struggle. It is the duty and the right of every free person and defender of freedom and dignity to struggle at all levels in order to end the occupation and restore the rights of the people. Therefore the form of struggle of our people in the city of Hebron is a model of the Palestinian struggle in every place, in order to liberate our land and achieve our rights. "