New Illegal Facts on the Ground: The Latest Developments in Hebron’s Old City

Media Briefs
March 07, 2023
New Illegal Facts on the Ground: The Latest Developments in Hebron’s Old City1



As a coalition of right-wing and religious parties, the new Israeli government is the most extreme to date. To maintain their alliance, they have divided ministries among themselves and created new ministerial positions, including the Minister of National Security led by Itamar Ben Gvir, an extremist settler who resides in the “Kiryat Arba” settlement constructed on occupied lands in Hebron. The newly created ministry holds unprecedented power, including the ability to strip other government ministries of their law enforcement authority and merge it under its umbrella. It establishes the Ministry of Civil Affairs and allows for the rotation of ministers. This unprecedented level of partisan control over government decisions serves to benefit the settlers and expand their colonial settlements at the expense of land belonging to occupied Palestine.

This government embraces extreme right-wing ideology, disregarding the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine and increasing their control over occupied Palestinian lands, especially in Jerusalem and Hebron and their holy sites. The so-called Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, recently announced a proposal to amend the judicial system, introducing an exception clause that would enable the suspension or cancellation of Israel’s Supreme Court decisions. Paving the way for the de jure annexation of occupied Palestinian lands and “legalizing” the crime of apartheid under Israeli law, the proposal prevents judges from nullifying Knesset laws and changes the process for selecting judges. Bills advancing the “reforms” were passed in a first reading on 13 February 2023.

Settlers hold sensitive political positions in the current fascist Israeli government that is heavily focused on expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank. This poses an additional threat to the already volatile situation in Hebron. According to the coalition agreement, the government plans to transfer an area of 13,000 dunums and approximately 70 buildings in Hebron city, which Jews allegedly owned before 1948, to the settlers.

This media brief summarizes the latest plans and developments in Hebron’s Old City. It highlights the occupying Power’s violations in this part of Hebron since the formation of the new Israeli government.


Latest Developments


1. Settlement Construction in the Land of the  Old Bus Station Complex

Located on Al-Shuhada Street, Hebron Municipality has been in charge of the complex since before 1967. After an Israeli military order seized the central station in 1983, it was closed for military purposes before Israeli settlers were allowed to move in.


  • On 10 August 2016, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF), with the settlers’ help and without a military order, placed 14 caravans on the land. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) submitted two petitions to Israel’s Supreme Court that were later rejected on security grounds, and a military camp was established for security purposes.
  • On 18 October 2017: Israel’s Supreme Planning Council approved a settlement project (31 housing units) on a flat area of 10,000 square meters within the complex’s land plot. The settlement is adjacent to the “Beit Romano” settlement, which took over Osama Bin Al-Munqith School in 1983. Hebron Municipality opposed this approval during the same year.
  • On 7 November 2019: the previous objection was rejected. Accordingly, an appeal was filed and dismissed, and the building permit was approved. The Hebron Municipality was also stripped of its powers over this land. In 2019, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled it lacked authority and issued an injunction order to stop construction.
  • A request was made to Israel’s Central Court, which upheld the order to stop construction for two years (2019-2021) while reviewing the petition. Despite this, digging and infrastructure work began at the end of 2021.
  • In 2020, the occupation authorities began construction on another section of the complex land near Khan Shaheen. Later, it became clear that the construction was for an integrated military base, including offices, housing units, a synagogue, an ammunition depot, and an area for loading and unloading military equipment. Consequent to biased Israeli judiciary and military orders, construction work continued until the completion of a military camp.

Compounded by lengthy court proceedings, the illegal seizure and acts of encroachment on the complex land have resulted in the theft of a significant portion of it and its subsequent transfer to settlers. Military orders have led to the closure of over 512 commercial stores extending from Al-Shuhada Street to Al-Sahla and the Ibrahimi Mosque. Thousands of families have been adversely affected, losing their primary source of income, and the situation has also undermined the security of Palestinian citizens residing in the vicinity. The Israeli settlers, who are armed and violent, pose an imminent threat to their safety and property.

Establishing a military camp replete with weapons and ammunition within a historical heritage area is particularly concerning as it jeopardizes the preservation of the surrounding architectural and cultural landmarks, mainly the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Old City.2


2. The Plan to Hand Over Palestinian Buildings to Israeli Settlers

Recent reports in the Hebrew media suggest that the new Israeli government plans to transfer ownership of 13,000 dunums of land and roughly 70 buildings in Hebron city, claiming ownership rights based on pre-Nakba inheritance claims. Before 1967, Jordan leased these properties to Hebron residents with protected lease agreements. After 1967, the ّIsraeli military and civil administration maintained this arrangement until the area was closed after the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994.

The plan to transfer ownership of these buildings stems from the coalition agreement between the Likud party and the Religious Zionism party, calling for the government to instruct the commander of the central region in the Israeli occupation army to amend military laws to facilitate the transfer of properties from the hands of the official in charge of government property in the Civil Administration to the hands of settlers. This would pave the way for further settlement expansion and the control of buildings currently rented by Palestinians.

If implemented, this plan would severely violate the Tenant Protection Law stipulated in Article 4 of the Landlords and Tenants Law of 1953, which protects tenants from being evicted even if their lease term has expired. The plan would infringe on the rights of Palestinian citizens who currently rent these buildings, which would be seized and transferred to settlers, not even to their presumed original Jewish owners. It’s important to note that the occupying Power allows Jews only to claim property ownership from before 1948, but millions of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and exile are denied this right. Israel’s Absentee Property Law3effectively prevents Palestinians from reclaiming their properties and aids in seizing more Palestinian properties in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

In 2018, the then Minister of Security in the occupying Power approved a decision allowing settlers to construct over the wholesale market shops in the old vegetable market (hesbah) despite the property being leased to the Hebron Municipality and protected by the Tenant Protection Law. Although the settlement project has yet to be implemented, settlers’ organizations have urged the government to expedite the issuance of licenses and permits to begin construction.


3. Electric Elevator in the Ibrahimi Mosque

Israeli settlers have launched a project that successive Israeli governments have supported, seeing it as crucial to securing their electoral votes. Various ministries have provided funding to achieve it while stripping Palestinian institutions of their legal and administrative powers to manage the holy site and issue necessary licenses for construction and other activities. This project has also been aided by the Israeli judiciary.


  • In 2020, the Israeli authorities decided to seize 394 square meters of land belonging to the Ibrahimi Mosque to build an elevator, including the elevator's body and a wheelchair-accessible ramp, for people with special needs.
  • In August 2021, the construction of this settlement project began under the guise of a humanitarian initiative. However, its true aim is to seize control of the Ibrahimi Mosque, prevent Muslims from accessing and praying in it, and hand over its management to a settlers committee. To build the ramp, excavation work was initiated in the garden, but archaeological remains were discovered, causing construction to cease and archaeological excavations to begin by the Israeli Civil Administration's so-called committee responsible for antiquities. Excavations halted construction work for a year.
  • On 26 October 2022, Hebrew media websites revealed that archaeological discoveries, including residential quarters from the middle ages and the foundations of ancient buildings dating back to the Roman era, were found at the excavation site.
  • In early December 2022, the archaeological site was buried entirely, and work began to establish the ramp.

To achieve their colonial goal of enforcing control of the Ibrahimi Mosque, turning it into a Jewish synagogue and a tourist attraction, the occupation authorities have carried out destructive attacks on the Mamluk and Ottoman archaeological remains located in the Ibrahimi Mosque square. Among these remains are holy shrines, a castle, and houses once endowment residences for the Ibrahimi Mosque servants. In order to allow disabled people access, the Palestinian side has proposed several alternatives without confiscating and destroying the outer squares and archaeological finds they contain. Still, the occupation authorities have refused all these options.

Excavations are being conducted on land that is part of the Ibrahimi Mosque endowment. The occupation authorities have prevented Palestinian citizens from accessing it since the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994. They seized the land through political decisions and military orders, which withdrew administrative and legal powers from the Hebron Municipality and the Islamic Endowments Directorate.

Although UNESCO designated the ancient old city of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque as world heritage sites to be protected from danger and called on Israel to abandon the project, the occupation authorities ignored all these requests. This project harms the exceptional universal values, integrity, and authenticity of the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is an essential part of the heritage site of the Old City of Hebron.


Last Word

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, responsible for managing the Old City and Ibrahimi Mosque as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has called attention to the severe violation of cultural heritage rights. The destruction and bulldozing of archaeological remains, which provide evidence of an urban fabric dating back to at least the Mamluk era, is a loss to our cultural heritage. These remains include residential buildings, public facilities, archways from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, and infrastructure possibly dating back to the Roman era. Any loss of this cultural heritage threatens the authenticity, integrity, and outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site. Therefore, the Committee has urged UNESCO to appoint a fact-finding committee to investigate the fate of these archaeological remains and protect them as witnesses to our cultural heritage.

Colonialism and apartheid are ongoing injustices afflicting the Palestinian people, including in Hebron, where Palestinians are denied access to their city, cultural heritage, and fundamental human rights. The situation in Hebron’s Old City clearly illustrates how the occupying Power and its settlers pose a grave threat to Palestinians' security, livelihoods, and even very existence on their land.

The international community is responsible for protecting the Palestinian people and their cultural heritage and holding Israel accountable for its actions and violations of international law. The two-state solution can only be achieved by ending Israel's 56-year-long occupation and oppression, and the international community must play an active role in making this happen.

  • 1. Acknowledgment: This brief is a collaboration between the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee and NAD’s Negotiations and Support Unit (PLO-NAD/ NSU).
  • 2. In 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Hebron's Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque as a Palestinian World Heritage site.
  • 3. In 1950, the Absentee Property Law was passed in an attempt to legitimize Israel's control over Palestinian land in what became Israel. The law authorizes the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property to seize, manage and control land owned by individuals designated as "absentees." The term "absentee" applies to any Palestinian who fled the areas of Palestine that later became Israel between 29 November 1947 and 18 May 1948, thereby becoming a Palestinian refugee. The Palestinian lands confiscated under the law after 1948 were eventually transferred from the Custodian to the Israeli Development Authority or the Jewish National Fund and earmarked for Jewish-only settlement. This law constitutes a clear violation of international law, as it denies Palestinians their fundamental right to property and dispossesses them of their land in a discriminatory and unjust manner.
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