HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces suppressed a crowded march in the Old City of the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron on Friday, as local Palestinian residents and international activists demanded the reopening of closed streets and the removal of the illegal Israeli settlers from the city.
The march was launched in line with the 23rd anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, when Jewish-American settler Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and shot dead 29 Palestinian Muslims during worship.
Since then, according to the organizers of Friday’s protest -- Veterans For Peace, Youth Against Settlements, and Codepink -- Shuhada street, which was once home to the Old City’s main marketplace, has remained almost entirely closed to Palestinians.
The march set off Friday at noon from the al-Sheikh neighborhood and headed towards al-Shalala Street near al-Shuhada Street.
Locals reported that Israeli forces fired tear gas at protesters, causing some of them to suffer from suffocation.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that on Friday “hundreds of Palestinians protested in the Hebron area. A number of protesters hurled rocks at Israeli forces. As a result, soldiers fired tear gas to disperse the riots.”
Located in the center of Hebron -- one of the largest cities in the occupied West Bank, the Old City was divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled areas, known as H1 and H2, following the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994.
Some 800 notoriously aggressive Israeli settlers now live under the protection of the Israeli military in the Old City, surrounded by more than 30,000 Palestinians.
While Israel claims to abide by peace agreements regarding the area, the international community has repeatedly slammed Israel for its draconian measures carried out against Palestinians.
Palestinian residents of the Old City face a large Israeli military presence on a daily basis, with at least 20 checkpoints set up at the entrances of many streets, as well as the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque itself. Additionally, Palestinians are not allowed to drive on Shuhada street, have had their homes and shops on the street welded shut, and in some areas of the Old City, are not permitted to walk on certain roads.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers move freely on the street, drive cars, and carry machine guns.
“Families on Shuhada Street are not able to buy their food without passing through checkpoints and facing harassment from soldiers and settlers. I hope soon that families living on Shuhada Street are again able to live with the freedom and dignity that has been denied to them for for too long,” Youth Against Settlements founder Issa Amro said.
After Israeli forces suppressed the march, tens of protesters regathered and threw shoes at pictures of US President Donald Trump at the entrance of Shuhada Street.
Local activist Muhammad Zghir said that the demonstration was in protest of Trump ignoring the rights of Palestinians and being biased toward the side of the Israeli government, adding that the shoes were thrown to "express their anger towards Trump's policies, his racism, and disrespect of Muslims and Arabs."
He added that the Palestinian people "would not give up their rights and will continue to fight any international plan that is in the interest of settlements and occupation."