Hamas urges Hebron unrest in reaction to Israeli president’s planned Hanukkah visit

With Herzog set to light candles at Tomb of Patriarchs, terror group warns Israel ‘fully responsible for repercussions’; Israeli left also plans protests against move

President Isaac Herzog at his official residence in Jerusalem, November 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog at his official residence in Jerusalem, November 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Hamas terror group on Friday warned that President Isaac Herzog’s plan to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday at a shrine in the West Bank city of Hebron was “a provocation” and “a flagrant violation” of the site’s sanctity, while calling on Palestinians to confront Israeli forces at the scene.

Several Israeli left-wing groups also lambasted the president’s planned visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and urged protests against it.

Hamas in a statement said that “the occupation bears full responsibility for the repercussions of this attack” on the site, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs, considered the second holiest site in Judaism after the Western Wall in Jerusalem, is believed to have been used as a burial plot by the Biblical patriarch Abraham. It is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims and is used for prayers by worshipers of both faiths, but has been a major flashpoint for violence.

“We call on the masses of our people in the West Bank and our people in the city of Hebron to confront this provocative step and to confront the attack on the Ibrahimi Mosque,” Hamas said.

The terror group also urged unrest in Jerusalem’s Old City in response to plans to hold a candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall, claiming the site belongs to Islam.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the West Bank town of Hebron, June 22, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Israeli organizations Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Crime Minister, Mothers Against Violence and others said the visit by the president to Hebron “legitimizes the apartheid regime and non-stop violence by settlers under which the Palestinian residents of the city live.”

They asserted that Herzog was giving a tailwind to “Jewish terror supporters and to the great injustice taking place there on a daily basis,” accusing the president of prostrating himself before the right to curry its favor.

Peace Now added that “it is inconceivable that the president, who should be a unifying figure, is choosing of all places to light a candle at the site that has become the bastion of Kahanism and a symbol of oppression and violence.”

Herzog’s office announced the event at the Tomb of the Patriarchs site on Wednesday. The president hails from the left and is a former leader of the Labor party.

Left-wing Meretz lawmakers Mossi Raz, Gaby Lasky and Michal Rozin criticized the decision in a statement, saying: “The president needs to be a unifying figure. Control of Hebron and the occupied territories, in particular, is in sharp political dispute. Out of all the settlements, the settlement in Hebron at the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the most outrageous.”

Hebron, in the southern West Bank, is the largest city in the West Bank and home to about 1,000 settlers who live under heavy military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.

The city is mostly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but the holy site and adjacent areas are controlled by Israel.

Jews pray at the Hall of Isaac at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron on August 29, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Meretz is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition, an unwieldy amalgam that includes the dovish party led by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the Islamist Ra’am faction, the centrist Yesh Atid, Labor and Blue and White parties, and the right-wing Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope parties.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is frequented by Jews during Shabbat and holidays and often under military protection. It, and the nearby area, have been the site of numerous attacks and attempted attacks against Israelis.

It is also the site of one of the worst incidents of settler violence against Palestinians, the 1994 massacre carried out by far-right extremist Baruch Goldstein, who opened fire during prayers, killing 29 people and wounding more than 100.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed