HEBRON (Ma'an) -- A petition signed by 25 rights groups renewed their call
on Tuesday for an end to Israel's “closed military zone” in the Old City of Hebron and ongoing repressive policies against Palestinian residents of the city.
The petition, put together by rights groups International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the Hebron Defense Committee, denounced the closure of areas of the Old City since Nov. 1 by Israeli forces, who have prevented both Palestinians and foreigners from entering the closed military zone.
The groups called “on the international community to take immediate action regarding the continuous closure of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood and the part of Shuhada Street that has remained inaccessible to Palestinian residents since the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in 1994, in occupied al-Khalil,” using the Arabic name for Hebron.
Shops in these Hebron neighborhoods were forced to close, and Palestinian residents required to register for special permits to cross through the 18 military checkpoints in the city center.
"Soldiers and settlers are making life for the Palestinians intolerable to force them to leave their houses voluntarily. This is a crime under international law,” the petition quoted Tel Rumeida resident Abed Salaymeh as saying.
“They are targeting activists to silence the truth and stop the truth from reaching the whole world," Salaymeh added.
Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in 1997 under the Oslo agreements.
The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control, known as H2.
The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers, carried out in the presence of the forces.
The petition affirmed that Israeli “measures, restrictions, and human rights violations are focused primarily and exclusively on making the Palestinian voice -- and in the long run the inhabitants of the area -- disappear altogether.”
The signatories called for an end to the “closed military zone” policy, the cessation of harassment of Hebron residents and activists, the removal of all illegal Israeli settlements from Hebron, and the suspension of US and European Union aid and agreements so long as Israel does not comply with international law.