Palestinian Police Pay First-ever Symbolic Visit to Hebron’s Old City

Israel approved the visit, which did not include entry into the area where Jewish settlers live

Palestinian police officers stand guard in the West Bank city of Hebron in 2008. Under an agreement between the PLO and Israel, they are not permitted to operate or even enter the Old City.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

Israeli security forces granted rare one-time permission this week to Palestinian police to enter the Old City of Hebron in uniform on Tuesday with weapons, two security officials have told Haaretz. The visit was symbolic, as far as is known, and was not arranged to carry out a police operation. It included a tour of the area and contact with Palestinian residents.

According to the Hebron Protocol signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1997, the Old City of the West Bank town is under exclusive Israeli security control. The Ma’an Palestinian news agency reported that this week’s visit was the first time that armed Palestinian police have moved around the area since the signing of the Hebron Protocol.

Two Israeli sources confirmed that the approval was provided on an exceptional, one-time basis and that it doesn’t represent a change in general policy barring the presence of Palestinian police from operating there. The Palestinian police presence was not in the area of the center of Hebron where Jewish settlers live, the sources said.

The Palestinian force included the commander of the Palestinian Authority police and the force’s Hebron district commander, who came in uniform and with all of their security gear, Ma’an reported.

Ma’an quoted Mohammed al-Ja’abari, an official with Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority, as saying that the visit gave the police an opportunity to be “among their people.” He called it a “Palestinian achievement,” particularly in an area of the Old City of Hebron, which he alleged “is subject to constant attacks by the occupation.”

Palestinians walk as they shop ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, in the Old City of Hebron, in May, 2018. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

The Hebron Protocol, an outgrowth of the Oslo Accords, divided the city into two sectors: H1, controlled by the Palestinian Authority and H2, roughly 20 percent of the city, administered by Israel, which includes the Old City and the Jewish settlement in the predominantly Palestinian town.