Shoppers and merchants at Ashkelon’s temporary outdoor market, located near a Muslim cemetery, have been parking their vehicles near the gravestones, prompting a group of residents to seek help from the municipality to prevent the practice.

While the Ashkelon municipality’s new outdoor market is under construction, parking is scarce near the temporary market. Although the Ashkelon municipality planted hundreds of trees around the perimeter of the nearby Muslim cemetery in recent weeks to prevent market-goers from parking at the site, people continue to do so, and city residents fear outrage from the Muslim population.

Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi reacted harshly, saying: “This is a deliberate attempt to harm Muslim sensibilities. It is a well-known Muslim cemetery, and this harmful attitude is part of the attitude to Muslim cemeteries in Israel in general. Imagine if this were the behavior in Jewish cemeteries in France or Poland.”

Tova Golst, among the Ashkelon residents who petitioned the municipality on the matter, told Maariv that she took action because she feared that the shoppers and merchants would eventually begin to park on the gravestones themselves.

Golst added: “True, it is not a Jewish grave, but it is a grave. Sadly, until Arabs come and demonstrate, nothing will happen, which is a shame.” She added: “Now they [Islamic extremists] can say that Jews do not care about Muslim sites, not even graves.”

The Ashkelon municipality told Maariv that it plans to develop the area around the cemetery in consultation with the religious authorities, and the current situation was only a result of the Passover holiday pressure.