Despite reports of ’70’ shop owners given permits to open up their stores in Hebron’s Shuhada Street after a 21 year closure, only two stores have reportedly been allowed to open- for just one hour.
Local sources last night disputed reports circling national and international media that ‘dozens’ of shops had obtained permits to reopen their shops on Shuhada Street in Hebron old city, after the Israeli army closed them down following the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994.
According to a statement made by the Israeli Civil Administration, a number of shops would be allowed to reopen and begin trading, with estimates ranging from 7 to 70 stores. However, human rights workers from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) have been monitoring activity on the street since the announcement, and reported little improvement to the situation.
ISM confirmed that two stores had been permitted to open for just one hour before the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) forced them to close again. They added that a Palestinian store holder had gained a permit to reopen and on July 24 attempted to restore his shop to ‘workable condition’. However, he was stopped by a group of settlers, escorted by Israeli police, who sat in front of his store and prevented him from carrying out any restoration work.
Issa Amro, locally-born human rights defender from Youth Against Settlements, spoke of his belief that the announcement regarding the reopening of stores on Shuhada Street was just an Israeli PR stunt to show a ‘fake’ Israeli lenience towards Palestinians during Ramadan.
‘As Palestinians, we don’t want a “nicer occupation”, we want our full freedom and self-determination,’ he said.
Amro announced an international campaign run by Youth Against Settlements to reopen Shuhada Street, indicating his organisation’s success in running more than 120 nonviolent activities all over the world in 2015 which demanded international pressure on Israel to end its occupation and illegal closure of Hebron old city.
Shuhada Street resident and fellow Youth Against Settlements activist, Abed Salaymeh, expressed his anger at the empty promise of the stores reopening, calling it a ‘dirty game’ which had made people very hopeful and ‘happy’ for a short time.
He also condemned the inaction of Israeli soldiers concerning settler attacks on Palestinians in Hebron old city. Salaymeh himself was the victim of a brutal settler attack and says that the IOF soldiers did nothing to prevent it from happening.
Hundreds of Palestinian shops and warehouses in the heart of Hebron old city were forced to close by the IOF in 1994 – twenty-one years ago – after the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre during which 29 Muslims were killed by Israeli extremist settler, Baruch Goldstein.
Israel promised in 1997 to reopen the street for trade, however this promise fell flat as, 21 years later, the street is still earning its nickname: Ghost Town.