The Israeli army issued a military exclusion zone order for Hebron on Friday, preventing any unauthorized entry to the city including a tour by hundreds of participants coordinated by several human rights organizations.
According to military sources, the order was issued to prevent “friction” and any violation of public order, following the recent violent incidents against Palestinians and activists in Hebron by Israeli soldiers. The exclusion zone order allows the participants to remain near the bus parking area of the Cave of the Patriarchs.
About 300 people were meant to participate in the tour organized by about 30 human rights organizations. Among the organizations that led the tour are Breaking the Silence, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Peace Now, B’Tselem and others. The order was issued by the military this morning at 7:00 A.M., before the participants arrived in Hebron.
According to its definition, a military exclusion zone order is intended for cases where security needs or the need to maintain public order require a certain area to be closed. Several days prior to the tour, IDF officials claimed that they would allow the participants to enter the city, but the army blocked all entrances upon their arrival.
The tour on Friday was met with a counter-demonstration of about 20 participants, led by the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu. Some of the demonstrators called out “Shame! Shame!” and “Sour losers!” while others held signs that read “The people of Israel demand that anarchists be removed from Hebron!” All the participants of the tour left Hebron after a few hours.
IDF spokesperson released a statement saying, “In accordance with our assessment of the situation, it was decided to issue a military exclusion zone order in several districts of Hebron in order to prevent friction. In accordance with the order, the entry of citizens who do not live in these districts was prohibited.”
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Last week, a soldier punched a participant in a tour organized by “Bnei Avraham,” a group of religious Jews who work alongside Palestinians. Another soldier was filmed intimidating the group, saying: “Ben-Gvir is going to bring order” and threatened to hit one of them while shouting: “Leftists, I will break you.” The soldier was sent to ten days in prison. On Friday his sentence was reduced by four days.
About 40 thousand Israelis participated in the events of “Shabbat Chayei Sarah” religious festival two weeks ago, which was held in the same area where the tour was supposed to pass on Friday. Palestinians and members of the security forces were attacked during the celebrations. “There were 50 settlers here and no one to help me. One of the settlers hit me in the shoulders and another punched me in the back,” a resident of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron told Haaretz.