Muhammad Oweiweih
Ma'an News Agency
May 17, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli authorities closed down the Palestinian Authority Municipal Inspectors building in the Old City of Hebron on Sunday, the city's mayor said.

Hebron Mayor Khalid Al-Useili said the procedure was "illegal and a violation of the Hebron agreement," and would endeavor to reopen the office immediately.

Al-Useili said Israeli authorities accused the PA of allowing its police force to operate secretly in the area, known as H2 and under full Israeli control, which would constitute a contravention of the Hebron Protocol and Agreement signed on 15 January 1997 between the PA and Israel.

According to section A, article 14 of the accord, "plainclothes unarmed municipal inspectors will operate in Area H-2. The number of these inspectors will not exceed 50," while section B read: "The inspectors shall carry official identification cards with a photograph issued by the Municipality."

The mayor said the municipality inspectors in the Old City work in coordination with Israeli authorities in accordance with the protocol and that no breach has been made nor have any PA police operated in the area.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that the municipal office was closed by Israeli security forces because it was operating "completely illegally without the authorization of the IDF [Israeli army]."

Meanwhile, PA officials said the Israeli closure was meant to create instability in Hebron's Old City, adding that municipal inspectors had restored security in an area where Palestinian residents had felt under threat.

One PA official in Hebron said homes and shops in the H2 area were facing daily threats before the municipal office was established and that the area was used as a shelter for fugitives given the absence of PA security services.

Security in Hebron's Old City has remained fragile since 1994 when far-right extremist Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi Mosque in the city and opened fire at Muslim worshipers during morning prayers, killing 29 and injuring dozens.

Following the attack, Israeli authorities imposed a series of restrictions on Palestinian movement including the closure of Ash-Shuhada Street and the farmer's market. More than 100 checkpoints and road blocks were erected in the city, as well as a "sterile" road, which connects an illegal settlement to Hebron's Old City and on which Palestinians are not allowed to transit.


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