Confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron continued for the fifth day in a row Friday, with the Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and police to protest the inclusion of the Cave of the Patriarchs on a list of Israeli "Heritage sites." The site holy to both Jews and Muslims houses a synagogue and a mosque. Last night dozens of settlers in nearby Kiryat Arba held a ceremony in memory of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 shot and killed 29 Muslim worships and injured 125 at the Cave of the Patriarchs before being killed himself.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad visited Hebron on Friday and warned Israel of increased risk of violence as a result of the Israeli government decision on the sites, adding "we are all united against the decision of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the terror of the settlers."
Last Sunday, at a cabinet meeting in the north, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the heritage program would include two West Bank sites, Rachel's Tomb in the Bethlehem area and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. As reported in Haaretz, the two West Bank sites were added to the heritage site list at the last moment and Netanyahu did not consult with security forces regarding the decision.
The U.S. administration condemned the decision to include the West Bank sites, as did the Jordanian parliament.
In the past several days Netanyahu has tried to calm tensions over the issue and to convey a conciliatory message, including assurances that the status quo between Jewish and Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs will not be altered and that only the Jewish side of the site will be renovated, inasmuch as the Muslim portion of the site had already been renovated recently.
An increased police presence was deployed at the Kiryat Arba commemoration in memory of Baruch Goldstein. The police prevented the participants from reaching Goldstein's grave in the settlement. On the eve of Purim last night, among those in the area were extreme right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Kiryat Arba council member Mordechai Sayed, who attended the memorial ceremony for Goldstein said "I have come to honor a friend who saved many people in his life and in his death." Another council member, Yisrael Bramson, said, "we have respect for Dr. Goldstein, for his work and his deeds."
Kiryat Arba councilman Benzion Gopstein said "Goldstein observed the commandments - not only to eat hamentashen [Purim pastries] but also the work of Mordechai and Esther [of the Purim story] who avenged the enemies of the Jews. We are here to honor his legacy."
During the ceremony the Book of Esther was read and a scuffle broke out between two drunk people, one of whom was injured. They were both arrested.
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