The Israeli High Court of Justice yesterday rejected a Palestinian petition against a settler project that includes installing an elevator at the Ibrahimi Mosque, based in the occupied city of Hebron.
Israeli authorities claim that the elevator project’s purpose is to facilitate special needs access from the side that the occupation army controls.
However, the municipality argues the real goal of the project is not a humanitarian one, but an attempt to seize a large area of land and further Judaise the mosque and therefore, has been demanding that the project be stopped because the construction will be on land it owns together with the Palestinian Waqf (Religious Endowment) Islamic Trust.
The Old City of Hebron, Al-Khalil in Arabic, includes the Ibrahimi Mosque and is known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs. It is a highly contested site and was listed as a Palestinian UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017.
Israel has steadily taken control of the mosque to facilitate worship by the small group of illegal Jewish settlers who have moved into the centre of the Old City at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. Access to the mosque for Muslim worship is controlled tightly by the occupation authorities and, on occasion, is banned altogether.
Moreover, in order to carry out the $1.4 million project, which includes a wheelchair-accessible path and the construction of an aerial bridge to connect to the upper staircase of the mosque, Israel will have to take full control of the site and the land around it.
According to the Times of Israel, the judges yesterday argued, “The question is not whether there is room for such accessibility work but how this has not been done to date.”
“We have not lost sight of the sensitivity along with the political and religious complexities associated with the Tomb of the Patriarchs complex. However, even the appellants acknowledged the need to make the site wheelchair accessible. Therefore it is regrettable that this humanitarian issue has also become a political one and a source of controversy,” the judges added.
The Judaisation project is being operated by the Engineering and Construction Department of the Israeli Ministry of Security under the supervision of the Israeli civil administration, which is expected to last about six months.
All of Israel’s settlements and settlers are on Palestinian land illegally, according to international law.