What is the Hebron row?

hebronWhat is Hebron?

Hebron claims to be one of the world’s oldest cities, dating from the chalcolithic period or more than 3,000 years BC.

Over the centuries, Romans, Jews, Crusaders, Mamluks and the British have conquered the city, which today lies in the southern part of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank.

The city — which is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians — is the largest in the West Bank, with more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.

What is the Old City row?

Israel seized the West Bank including Hebron in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

In the years after, a small community of Jewish settlers moved into the area next to an important religious site, protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers.

All such settlements are considered illegal by the United Nations, but Israel says there are thousands of years of Jewish history in the city.

Jews had been living in Hebron decades before 1967 but were forced out after violent attacks by Palestinians during the British Mandate.

What is the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs?

At the centre of the dispute is the site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Old Testament figures including Abraham are believed to be buried there.

In 1994, Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslims praying at the site, killing 29, before being beaten to death by survivors.

The building is now split into two, with Muslims praying at the mosque and Jews at the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Palestinians say the heavy Israeli military presence, including a series of checkpoints, is degrading and point out that parts of the city are off limits to them.

What was the vote?

The Palestinian-led move asked UNESCO’s heritage committee to recognise Hebron’s Old City as a protected heritage site, while also referring to the city as “Islamic”.

Israel rejected the idea, with foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon saying the Palestinians were “trying to rewrite Jewish history and the history of the region”.

The vote came only two months after UNESCO passed a separate resolution on Jerusalem, which Israel said denied Jewish connection to the Western Wall the holiest site Jews are allowed to pray at.

What impact will the resolution have?

The effects on the ground are likely to be limited, with Israel still maintaining military control over the area.

Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen laughed off the resolution on Friday, saying his plumbing at home was more important.

But Alaa Shahin, from the Palestinian Hebron municipality, told AFP before the vote it could help encourage tourism.

He said Israel’s military had closed off much of the Old City’s souq and the vote would provide backing to attempts to prevent this.

“We’ll have a legal body at an international level that will help our efforts to stop any attempts to destroy it,” he said.