Jews in Hevron March on Casbah in Response to Threats

The struggle for Hevron's Shalhevet neighborhood has begun, as residents, instead of waiting for the expulsion attempt, respond to the threat by trying to expand the Jewish presence in the city.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 00:13

Several hundred residents attempted to enter the city's Casbah market Saturday afternoon after a day of increasing tension between residents and the growing presence of Yassam riot police. The special police squads and soldiers posted to the city are preparing to evict a dozen Jewish families from the Shalhevet neighborhood, located in the old wholesale market.

Hundreds of police and IDF forces were called into the area. An IDF officer of the Paratroops brigade was injured lightly when a stone was thrown at him. He said later that he was standing next to Arabs at the time, and "I would like to believe that the rock was not meant for me." Hevron spokesman Noam Arnon said that no one meant to injure Israeli soldiers.

On Thursday, a building opposite entrances number four and five of Hevron's Tomb of the Patriarchs was burned. The Arab family living in the building had abandoned it four days earlier. Four youths were seen leaving the area, police say.

A vehicle belonging to one of the Yassam units brought into Hevron was damaged by rocks thrown by local children near the city's Gross Square. A ten-year-old was arrested at the scene, but was released shortly later due to his age. Paint was also thrown at a Border Police jeep and tires slashed.

The marketplace was built on top of Jewish-owned land after the Jews of Hevron were massacred and expelled in the 1929 Arab riots in the city. For years, a large billboard hung above the market explaining that it was built atop stolen Jewish land. After the murder of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass by an Arab sniper, several Jewish families moved into the marketplace, which was no longer used by local Arabs due to a military order. Meanwhile, the holders of the original title to the property had turned it over to the Jewish community of Hevron.

The government has announced half a dozen targets for demolition in the coming weeks, including nine permanent homes in the Binyamin community of Amona, three hilltop communities in Samaria and a house in Gush Etzion. At the destruction of the house in the Gush Etzion community of Sde Boaz, just north of Neve Daniel, police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters, yet still took an entire day to demolish the structure successfully, and were blocked from reaching the foundation of a second, larger structure.

Political commentators in the weekend edition of B'Sheva newspaper suggest that acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, concerned about the negative effects of Ariel Sharon's declining health on their political future, are trying to provoke the residents of Judea and Samaria into actions that will lead to a further drop in support for the settlement enterprise, and an improvement in the Kadima Party's standing.