The occupied West Bank city of Hebron "represents Israel's apartheid regime," the Secretary General of the Palestinian Initiative has said. Mustafa Al-Barghouti made his comments at an event to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the massacre of Palestinian worshippers inside the Ibrahimi Mosque in the city by an illegal Jewish settler, Safa news agency reported on Friday.
"Whoever wants to see the reality of what the Israeli apartheid regime means has to visit Hebron's Old City," explained Al-Barghouti in the historic mosque. He described the situation in Hebron as "worse" than what was seen in South Africa during the dark, oppressive days of Apartheid.
"Our people will not accept anything less than freedom and independence," he told those present. "Israel will never break our persistence and struggle against slavery and racial discrimination."
Al-Barghouti, who is known for his moderation and pragmatism, stressed that Israel does not understand anything except power. He called for a change in the balance of power in favour of the Palestinian people through encouraging popular resistance and imposing sanctions against the Zionist state.
Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces erupted on Friday as demonstrators took to the streets calling for the main thoroughfare in the heart of Hebron, Al-Shuhada Street, to be reopened.
The street has been closed to Palestinians ever since Dr Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Palestinians as they prayed inside Ibrahimi Mosque on 25 February 1994. Illegal Jewish settlers are, however, allowed to use Al-Shuhada Street under heavy Israeli military protection.
The Israeli soldiers prevented the Palestinians from entering the thoroughfare on Friday, setting up several flying checkpoints in their way. The occupation forces also used tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets against the demonstrators.