February 8, 2011 - 1:00am

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Trinidad Jimenez visited Hebron on Tuesday as part of a two-day tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In Hebron, Jimenez met with representatives of the divided city 's Palestinian and Israeli residents. It is Jimenez' first visit to Israel and Palestinian territories since taking office two months ago.

Spain and Germany are backing a housing project for Palestinians being constructed near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Jewish officials from Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba were angered that, according to their version of events, Jimenez did not coordinate her visit to the so-called "Eastern Casbah" neighborhood with Israel's Foreign Ministry.

Commenting on the charge, a Foreign Ministry official who refused to be named told Xinhua Tuesday that "it's important that whoever is visiting Hebron hear both sides of the story."

During the visit, a group of Jews faced-off against Jimenez, shouting "Anti-Semite, out! Hater of Israel, get out of here!" according to a report in The Jerusalem Post newspaper. The leader of the group, right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, has a history of similar protests.

Local Jewish officials also protested the visit in a letter sent to Jimenez on Monday, saying they feared that the planned neighborhood might house released Palestinian prisoners, endangering the nearby Jewish community.

They charged that the project would create "a hostile demographic buffer, with a potential for terrorism, which could erupt at any moment the heart of the tiny Jewish area near the holy place, Tomb of the Patriarchs."

The letter noted Spain's expulsion of it's Jewish population just over 500 years ago.

Spain is remembered in Jewish history as a country that brought about a great national disaster, betrayed its Jewish citizens and expelled them. A small number of those expelled reached Hebron, where they found refuge and built a Jewish community, the letter said.

"Does the government of Spain intend to bring about yet another expulsion of Hebron's Jews, the City of the Patriarchs of the Jewish People," the letter read.

Hebron Jewish community spokesman David Wilder told Xinhua that, Jimenez told community leaders at a brief meeting that "she was familiar with the Jewish history and that the visit was only intended to try and help so all can live here peacefully."


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