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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Hebron's settlers expand after attack
Bulldozer working on rebuilding of Hebron
Rebuilding is already under way in Hebron

On Friday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire as soldiers and security guards escorted Jewish settlers along a route used to reach the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron - a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Twelve people were killed.

Just days later, at the site of the ambush, Israeli bulldozers are shifting tons of earth and rock.
Streets of Hebron
Hebron has long been a flashpoint for violence

This is the response of the Jewish settlers of Hebron to the attack; they are taking more land. They want to establish a mile-long corridor from the settlement of Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

"We intend to build a new neighbourhood in the area on the road where the attack took place," says David Wilder, a spokesman for the settlers.

"We call this the true Zionist response. Rather than running away we do not acquiesce to the terrorists. We do the exact opposite of what the terrorists would expect."

Fitting memorial

Just metres from the building site, Ayoub Rajabi picks through the rubble of two Palestinian homes destroyed by the Israeli army. Israel claims the gunmen used the houses as firing positions.

That is denied by local people, who are once again living under a strict military curfew.


If expanding the settlement is the only way we can get to our places of worship safely then so be it

Raphael Duchan, brother of Hebron victim

"We want to live like anyone else in the world," he told me.

"We want to feel like we're alive, like we're human beings. This area has been under curfew for two years. What is this - are we living in a zoo?"

In Kiryat Arba, relatives and friends of Alex Duchan, an Israeli security guard shot and killed in the ambush, gather at his home to pay their respects to his family and to pray. His brother Raphael believes the proposed expansion of the settlement is a fitting tribute to his memory.

"We should tell Arabs who are fighting for the right to pray in their holy places that we also want to be able to pray in peace.

International concern

"If expanding the settlement is the only way we can get to our places of worship safely then so be it."

The Jewish community in Hebron is tiny. Around 450 settlers live under tight security in a city of about 130,000 Palestinians. Their settlement is considered illegal under international law by most of the world but the settlers see it as their religious right and duty to live here.

"Any Arab who's willing to live with us peacefully within the framework of a Jewish state can live here," says settlers spokesman David Wilder.
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon backs the settlers' expansion plans

"An Arab who doesn't want to live within the framework of a Jewish state doesn't have to stay - they've got 22 states around here and they can go wherever they want.

"A person who doesn't agree with the framework but wants to fight against us has to understand that we're going to fight back."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is among those who have expressed concern over the plans to extend the settlement in Hebron.

Mr Straw has called the proposal an obstacle to peace. Nevertheless, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a champion of the settler movement - and so far he is doing nothing to stop it.


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17 Nov 02 | Middle East
18 Nov 02 | Middle East
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