All institutions in the Palestinian city of Hebron shut down on Monday in protest of Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement that a new Jewish neighborhood would be built in the city.
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Sources in the city, who aren’t affiliated with the Palestinian Authority or Fatah, told Haaretz that the strike was a show of power by the movement against fellow factions and the general public, as a strike does not provoke Israel but only hurts local businessmen and residents. Sources in Fatah said the protest is legitimate and is a necessary reaction to Israel’s policy.
The strike was declared by Fatah alone but the PA lined up with it. Masked people roamed the city on Monday to make sure everybody was striking, and no presence of Palestinian Authority security forces was noted. In addition, there were some clashes between local teens and Israeli soldiers.
Last week, Bennett ordered the Israeli Military’s Civil Administration to start planning a Jewish neighborhood in the Hebron wholesale market. The defense minister’s permission is a vital step in planning of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The structures in the marketplace belong to the Hebron municipality but have been under Israeli military closure for some 25 years. According to Bennett’s announcement, they will be razed, and 70 apartments for Jews will be built in their place.
It isn’t clear from his announcement whether the Palestinian traders can keep selling in the stores there, though it does state that the rights on the ground floor as they are today will be preserved. Currently, it's the Palestinian municipal government which holds protected tenant status on the wholesale market.
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Samer Shehadeh, a lawyer representing the Hebron municipality, said Israel will need the city’s acquiescence to raze the market and build a new neighborhood for Jews on the spot. Legally, the right to protected tenancy extends to the entirety of the land and no process of demolition or construction can be done without the city’s consent, he added.
Hebron Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneineh warned that Bennett’s decision could set the whole area alight. Hebron isn’t a card for negotiation among Israeli political parties and any change in policy could cause escalation, Abu Sneineh said.