Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

West Bank strike over Israeli tomb heritage claim

Rachel's Tomb (file)
Palestinians have complained they are denied access to Rachel's Tomb

A strike has been called by the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem in protest at Israel's move to claim two West Bank shrines as heritage sites.

Businesses, schools and universities remained closed as people observed the first day of the three-day walk-out.

Local TV stations broadcast the PA's call following Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's addition of the shrines to Israel's heritage list at the weekend.

The PA also called for a rally to be held on Friday in Bethlehem.

Israel's prime minister announced on Sunday that Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron would be included in an Israeli-funded $107m (£69m) restoration plan.

Bethlehem residents said businesses were shuttered and universities and schools empty as the strike began.

Staff at Bethlehem University were told on Monday not to report for work for three days because of the strike.


The Tomb of Rachel - a shrine to the Biblical matriarch revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims - has also been a source of controversy.

Some Muslims say it is the site of a mosque.

Tomb of the Patriarchs [file pic]
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is known to Muslims as the al-Ibrahimi Mosque

The shrine is on the Israeli side of the West Bank barrier. The Israelis say this is for security reasons, but Palestinians say it constitutes a land grab, illegal under international law.

On Monday there were clashes between protesters and police in Hebron, near the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where the Bible says Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried with three of their wives. It is known to Muslims as the al-Ibrahimi mosque.

Palestinians said they feared their access to the sites - important to Muslims and Jews - would be limited. This was denied by Israeli officials.

Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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