PA’s Eid lockdown provokes Palestinian protests, tensions across West Bank

Hundreds of residents of Hebron violate coronavirus curfew, demand to pray in mosques to observe the holiday

Palestinians gather to protest lockdown measures in Hebron, early Sunday, May 24, 2020 (video screenshot)
Palestinians gather to protest lockdown measures in Hebron, early Sunday, May 24, 2020 (video screenshot)

Protests broke out in Hebron Saturday night as hundreds of residents violated a coronavirus curfew put in place by the Palestinian Authority and demanded the right to pray in city mosques in observance of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

“The people want to observe the holiday prayer,” marchers chanted in front of the PA’s headquarters in the city, videos circulating on Palestinian social media showed.

The Palestinian Authority has temporarily banned prayer in mosques and churches throughout the West Bank as part of the general curfew through the end of Eid al-Fitr.

On May 16, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced that the West Bank would be under total lockdown throughout the holiday, with all movement restricted from Friday, May 22, until the evening of Monday, May 25. All businesses — with the exception of bakeries and pharmacies — have been ordered to close so as to block the spread of the novel coronavirus. West Bank residents were ordered not to leave their homes.

Eid al-Fitr is one of the holiest dates in the Islamic calendar, and congregational prayer is among the main religious obligations of the holiday. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein issued a fatwa permitting Muslims to perform Eid prayers in their homes.

Nonetheless, Hebron residents allegedly gathered in large numbers in violation of the curfew and social distancing measures ordered by the Palestinian health ministry, demanding that mosques be opened.

In the early morning before the dawn prayer Sunday, worshipers were permitted to crowd into the mosques without any apparent urging by security forces to observe the lockdown procedures.

The ongoing lockdown has created tension across the PA-administered West Bank between Palestinian civilians and security forces. On Saturday afternoon, Palestinian security forces allegedly used live fire against two young men in Dheisheh refugee camp outside of Bethlehem. According to Palestinian media, the two men were wounded after “skirmishes regarding the implementation of curfew procedures.”

In response, Bethlehem governor Kamil Hameed announced the formation of a committee to investigate the “painful event.”

At the same time, Hameed urged “all members of Palestinian society… to avoid being drawn into the distorted social media pages and websites which seek to serve the occupation by spreading rumors and lies.”

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