The Israeli Air Force’s annual Independence Day flyover next week will pass over the West Bank city of Hebron next month in what some settlement leaders have deemed an important recognition of their communities by the state.
The 74th Independence Day flight constitutes “another brick in the building of the land and the settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Eliyahu Libman, the head of the Kiryat Arba-Hebron local council, told National broadcaster Kan on Sunday, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
But while Kan reported that this year’s flight marks the first time that the Air Force has overflown Hebron and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi told Haaretz that this was “fake news.”
“Last year the airplanes flew over Efrat and Gush Etzion so I don’t know what they are trying to say this year,” he said.
Last year’s flight passed over multiple sites in the West Bank, including the Beitar Illit and Alon Shvut settlements.
But the flight has never passed over Hebron, whose settler community has been ceremonially embraced by the new government in recent months.
Responding to critics of the new route, an IDF spokesperson said that "The IDF is a government body, and any attempt to assign a political statement or message to the flight route has no basis."
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Last November, President Isaac Herzog visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as part of a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony held alongside leaders of the city's settler community, which was met with protests by left-wing Israeli groups and Palestinians.
"The Israeli government bears full and direct responsibility for this event," the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ceremony is "a defiant move aimed at embracing the settlement enterprise and a blatant violation of international law and the international effort to curb unilateral measures,"