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Israel moves to 'usurp' lands of Palestine's iconic Ibrahimi Mosque Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel moves to 'usurp' lands of Palestine's iconic Ibrahimi Mosque

The Hebron site is revered by both Jews and Muslims [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2020

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A Palestinian official has accused Israel of using false legal justifications to usurp more Palestinian lands.
Israel's attorney general has approved a decision to seize the lands of Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque, a key religious site in the occupied West Bank that was the site of a devastating 1994 massacre.

Lands belonging to the WAQF, or Islamic charitable trust, that oversees the mosque will be used to make the adjoining synagogue more easily accessible for disabled visitors, The New Arab's affiliate Arab48 reported.

Both Jews and Muslims revere the same site in Hebron as the traditional burial place of Abraham and his family. Jews call it the Tomb of the Patriarchs, while for Muslims it is known as the Ibrahimi Mosque or Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi.

The site was once shared between devotees of both religions as a dual-use mosque and synagogue but the 1994 killing of 29 Muslim worshippers by an Israeli settler prompted its strict division.

The massacre was a key factor in the creation of a 1996 agreement that saw Hebron officially divided between Palestinian and Israeli authorities, with settlers being granted much of the old city.

Following Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's approval, the lands will be under the control of Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett.

Mandelblit's legal justification for allowing the seizure of the lands is unclear. According to peace agreements signed in the 1990s, the land is legally under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Hossam Abu al-Rab, Undersecretary for the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments, has accused Israeli authorities of using the coronavirus pandemic and legal justifications to usurp Palestinian lands in Hebron.

According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abu al-Rab called on UNESCO to stand against the move. UNESCO recognised Hebron's old city as a world heritage site in 2017.

Netanyahu on Monday officially entered into a unity government with major revel Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party and a former chief of the army.

Critics have accused Gantz of endorsing the annexation of much of the occupied West Bank by entering into a unity deal with Netanyahu. While the deal was prompted by the coronavirus crisis, negotiations reportedly required both sides to agree upon annexation as delimited in a US peace plan revealed earlier this year.

While Hebron is not included in the Trump administration's so-called "Deal of the Century", Netanyahu pledged last year to annex illegal Israeli settlements in the old city.

The city, located in the southern West Bank, is regarded as the second holiest in Judaism and is home to hundreds of Israeli settlers. 

But Hebron is also home to more than 200,000 Palestinians, with a post-Oslo agreement seeing the city carved in two, with hundreds forced to live in close proximity to illegal settlers who have a reputation of being the most extreme and violent towards Palestinians. 

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