Tensions spike after Israel names two West Bank sites to national heritage list
Tensions between Israel and Palestinians continued to rise Wednesday, following Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to add two West Bank sites to its national heritage list.
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Israelis President Shimon Peres tried to rein in the rhetoric Wednesday, telling Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, that Israel wasn't interested in "monopolizing" the sites and that it did not need "artificial conflicts" sparked by a "misunderstanding."
“Israel will continue to grant freedom of worship to every religion in every holy place," Mr. Peres said.
Clashes in the West Bank continued for the third straight day on Wednesday, following Sunday's decision by the Israeli government to add the two sites to list. In Hebron, clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces. Several Palestinians were injured, including a young boy and his mother, according to the Maan news agency in Ramallah.
An Israeli military spokesman said Palestinians hurled burning tires and rocks at soldiers, and that the rioters were dispersed. He said he could not confirm the injuries. An Israeli driving on a West Bank road was injured by a stone thrown at his car by local Palestinians, Israel Radio reported late Wednesday.
A day earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Israel’s decision to place the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem on the national heritage list could trigger a holy war. In Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday called on Palestinians to launch a new uprising against the measure.
That both the Israelis and the Palestinians lay claim to the very same sites of religious worship in the West Bank is not new. The Oslo Accords attempted to address the issue by promising continuing access to holy sites for all. But Israel's decision now to add the two sites to a national plan to renovate and improve the conditions of some
150 historical sites comes amid lack of progress in returning to negotiations.
The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (sometimes called the Tomb of the Patriarchs), which both devout Muslims and Jews believe contains the remains of Old Testament prophet Abraham and his wife, Sarah, has been a flashpoint in the past. In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein entered the Muslim side of the cave and killed 29 Palestinians worshiping there.