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Israeli troops clash with Palestinians marking Hebron massacre

Troops and settlers clash with Palestinians protesting on anniversary of massacre of 29 Palestinians at Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs
Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at protesters in Hebron (MEE/Charlie Donnelly)

Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinian protesters on Friday in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, on the anniversary of a 1994 massacre of Palestinians carried out by a far-right Jewish settler.

Soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowd as cannons doused them with stinking water, an AFP correspondent said. Jewish settlers, of whom 500 are entrenched in the centre of the city of around 200,000 Palestinians, hurled stones at the protesters.

Medics on the scene reported several cases of suffocation. 

Palestinians had gathered on Hebron's busy Shuhada Street to march close to the Ibhrahim Mosque where US-Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire on worshippers in 1994, killing 29 people, before being overpowered, disarmed and beaten to death by survivors. 

Local resident Emad Abu Shamsiya, 51, lived in Hebron at the time of the massacre, which sparked mass riots in which dozens more people were killed.

"It was an Israeli settler that killed Palestinians while they prayed - yet somehow it is the Palestinians who have been expelled from their homes," he said.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against settlements, which have left the city divided into two sectors: H1 is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, while H2 - home to some 30,000 Palestinians who live alongside Jewish settlements - is administratively part of Israel. 

Some protesters threw rocks at Israeli soldiers (MEE/Charlie Donnelly)

Shamsiya and his mother live on opposite sides of the divide, and he told MEE that she has not been able to visit him in eight months.

As well as chanting anti-settlement slogans, Palestinian protesters also threw shoes at a poster of US president Donald Trump.

Trump last week cast doubt on the decades-long process to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and has refused to condemn Israel's continued illegal policy of settlement building in the occupied territory.

Mufeed Sharabati, one of the organisers of Friday's demonstration, told MEE he fears that restrctions placed on Palestinians in Hebron mean that Palestinians are dehumanised.

"[Israel] is reducing us to just numbers," he said.

Glancing towards a group of Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint that separates H1 and H2, Sharabati said: “This is how ghettos are - here, the Israeli government gives settlers an army and support, while we’re slowly pushed out.”

Palestinians have stepped up calls for the Israeli army to reopen Shuhada Street, near the Jewish settler enclave in the heart of the city, that has been largely closed off to Palestinians for the past 23 years since the massacre.

Hebron has been at the centre of a wave of deadly unrest since October 2015 that has killed 252 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, two US nationals, a Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national, according to an AFP count.

Additional reporting by Mariam Barghouti

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