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Palestinians clash with Israeli forces over work at Hebron’s Tomb of Patriarchs

Construction to make the holy site handicap accessible began Monday; plan includes elevator, bridge and path connecting parking lot to site

Palestinian protesters speed away to avoid tear gas amid clashes with Israeli security forces, at a demonstration following the Friday prayers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs denouncing Israeli construction plans at the site, in the city of Hebron in the West Bank on August 13, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Palestinian protesters speed away to avoid tear gas amid clashes with Israeli security forces, at a demonstration following the Friday prayers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs denouncing Israeli construction plans at the site, in the city of Hebron in the West Bank on August 13, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Palestinians briefly clashed with Israeli forces in Hebron on Friday over construction at the Tomb of the Patriarchs to make the site handicap accessible.

Photos showed Israeli Border Police troops firing stun and teargas grenades into a crowd of Palestinians that arrived to demonstrate near the site.

Construction at the holy site began on Monday. On Thursday, local mosques in Hebron called upon Palestinians to show up for Friday prayers and a demonstration at the site, according to media reports.

There were no reports of serious injuries amid the clash which occurred following Friday prayers outside the site.

Police made no immediate statement on the clashes.

Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved the long-awaited plan to make the site accessible for the disabled — both Israeli and Palestinian worshippers.

Palestinians pray during Friday prayers at a protest against the construction of disabled access being built at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the West Bank city of Hebron, August 13, 2021. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

“The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a sacred and historic site, and in the 21st century it is impossible for such an important site for Jews and Muslims not to be accessible to all populations, regardless of religion, race, or gender,” Gantz said at the time.

The site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, is accessible now only by its iconic stairs. The $1.4 million project includes an elevator, a path to reach the entrance from the parking area, and a bridge connecting the elevator to the entrance.

The Hebron municipality and the Waqf, which oversees Muslim holy sites in the Palestinian territories, have objected to what they described as the expropriation of Palestinian land for the project.

Border Police troops are seen deployed as Palestinian worshippers protest following Friday prayers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs denouncing Israeli construction plans at the site, in the city of Hebron in the West Bank on August 13, 2021. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

In order to carry out the construction work on the site, the military’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories issued a land acquisition order last year, the Walla news site reported.

Some have accused Israel of violating agreements between it and the Palestinians, as the Palestinian Authority was the planning authority for the site.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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