Conflict in the Middle East: Chaos at Abraham’s Tomb

Attacks on Israelis and raids on Palestinians claimed a particularly large number of lives in 2022. A street battle broke out in Hebron.

Two soldiers in the background, in the foreground a gesticulating demonstrator

Hebron on Saturday: Pilgrims accompanied by soldiers Photo: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters

TEL AVIV taz | Hebron on Saturday resembled a battlefield. Stones fly, shots are fired, mashed vegetables cover the asphalt. A Jewish settler slaps a Palestinian, another throws wooden planks from a roof onto the street. Videos of the street battle circulated online over the weekend.

Every year, tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims travel to Hebron in the Palestinian West Bank, which is probably the most contested city in this region, right after Jerusalem. In the city, both Muslims and Jews worship Abraham’s tomb. Hebron is also the only Palestinian city in the West Bank whose hearts have been settled by settlers, mostly ideologically radical.

According to Israeli media, the clashes erupted when pilgrims, escorted by the Israeli army, went to the so-called Tomb of the Patriarchs and began attacking Palestinians with stones. They also responded by throwing stones. According to reports, Israeli security forces were also attacked by Jewish pilgrims. Twelve Palestinians were hospitalized.

Radicals see themselves legitimized by election results

Controversy on this pilgrimage is not new. But this year, the scale has reached a new level, says Ori Givati ​​from the organization Breaking the Silence. He sees a connection with the Israeli parliamentary elections three weeks ago the far-right settler Itamar Ben-Gvir emerged as the real winner with his list “Religious Zionism”.

According to Givati, radical settlers would feel legitimized by the election. Everything looks as if Ben-Gvir, who himself lives in the settlement of Kiryat Arba bordering Hebron, will get the popular post of Minister of Internal Security in a future government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

Critics of emerging right-wing religious government in Israel are worried about the situation in the West Bank. In 2022, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has already claimed more lives than in previous years. Most recently, an 18-year-old Palestinian stabbed two Israelis and ran a vehicle over a third near the Ariel settlement in the West Bank last Tuesday.

Lion’s Denn militant cell

The Israeli military has stepped up crackdowns on the West Bank since Palestinians killed 19 Israelis in a series of attacks inside Israel earlier this year. More than 130 Palestinians were killed, including civilians, youth and children. In addition, 23 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank in recent months.

The militant cell “Lion’s Denn” was behind many of these attacks. The group was formed in Nablus in August 2022 and consisted mainly of young Palestinians linked to Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas but operating autonomously. The Israeli military responded with raids and a siege of Nablus until parts of the group surrendered to the Palestinian Authority.

The situation then seemed to calm down – until the most recent attack in Ariel, carried out by a Palestinian who had not previously attracted attention. Actions by lone perpetrators, as Israel’s security apparatus knows, are difficult to prevent.

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