A new Berlin on the West Bank

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The Independent Online
In future, Hebron will be divided as Beirut and Berlin were in the past.

The 100,000 Palestinians on the western side of the city, called H1, come under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The eastern fifth of Hebron, where around 50 Jewish families live along with 20,000 Palestinians, remains under Israeli control and will be known as H2.

In theory, civilians will be able to pass between the two sides of the city but already yesterday there were long queues of Palestinian cars trying to get to the al-Ibrahimi mosque, which remains under Israeli control. There will be 400 armed Palestinian police.

The high ground overlooking Jewish houses will be demilitarised and patrolled by joint patrols only.

The agreement, which effectively partitions Hebron, was signed by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, with the Labour government in 1995. The protocol signed last week makes surprisingly few changes. Buffer zones will be established between the two sides. Much negotiating time was spent on the future of Shuhada street, the main road, which has been closed to Palestinians since 1994, when Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. This is to be rebuilt and redesigned by the US to minimise friction between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

USAID even promises to plant flowers and small shrubs. The road will be reopened in four months.

Security of settlers is provided for in great detail. Palestinian police will carry only short-range sub-machine-guns. No high buildings can be built next to Jewish enclaves. In the Palestinian area, the Imara, or security headquarters, has already been turned over to Palestinian security. Shops in the vegetable market - but not stalls - will be reopened.

But, given the proximity between settlers and Palestinians, an essential element of security for the Jews will be the co-operation of the 1,000 Palestinian plainclothes security personnel in Hebron.