Divided Hebron suffers the legacy of settler's massacre

Only 20 Muslims were praying or sitting cross legged reading the Koran in the Tomb of the Patriarchs yesterday, a year after the Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 worshippers with repeated bursts of automatic fire. Outside Israeli soldiers were checking the identity of a trickle of visitors who pass through two metal detecting gates before they enter the 700-year-old Mamluk al-Ibrahimi mosque.

Goldstein, a Brooklyn-born army reserve captain, was killed by survivors of the massacre but, had he survived, he would probably have been pleased by the results of his attack. The mass killing - and the failure of the government to act against the settlers in Hebron - punctured the optimism which followed the Oslo agreement of 1993. It was the first of a series of spectacularly violent events, the latest of which was the Beit Lid bombing on 22 January, as a result of which relations between Palestinians and Israelis have reached a new low.

In theory the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lie buried with their wives, is open again, but anybody wanting to get there has to negotiate seven Israeli checkpoints. Uninviting at the best of times, Hebron was yesterday shut tight as shopkeepers closed their steel shutters in response to a general strike called to mark the anniversary of the massacre.

The Israeli army fears the strike may not be the only event planned to mark the slaughter which, by the Muslim calendar took place on 15 Ramadan (25 February by western dating). For weeks the Israeli press has speculated that the Islamic militants of Hamas, who say their suicide bombing campaign is a response to the Hebron massacre, will make another spectacular attack to mark the anniversary.

Israeli troops are on alert throughout the country but nowhere more than in Hebron itself. Overnight two Palestinians were wounded by soldiers at al-Fawar refugee camp to the south. Yesterday morning,on the main road from Jerusalem, just 15 miles north, long lines of trucks and cars were waiting to be checked at a guard post, close to a large sign which read: "Welcome to Hebron."

As the line failed to move, drivers became impatient and tried to bypass the checkpoint by using a track which wandered up and down the steep hills overlooking the city. The Israelis had anticipated this and blocked the back road with rubble and concrete, but it was just possible to squeeze between the end of the barricade and the last corner house.

We gave a lift to a Palestinian named Fayad, who said was unemployed but had worked on a building site in Israel until the border was closed after Beit Lid. He said that because of the checks "only 1 per cent of the people in Hebron can get to the mosque". He warned us to be careful, saying: "My uncle, Tallal al-Bakri, was shot dead when he drove through a checkpoint manned by settlers last year."

On a hill on the eastern side of Hebron are the tall white apartment blocks of the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where Baruch Goldstein lived for 10 years before he walked down the hill with his automatic rifle a year ago. after the massacre, the celebrations of the 7,000 settlers - famed for their chauvinism - further poisoned relations, if that were possible, with the 150,000 Palestinians who live in the rest of the city. A memorial service for Goldstein planned for this week will not improve matters. An organiser said yesterday Kiryat Arba would remember "a man murdered by an Arab mob". T-shirts printed with his face are for sale.

Inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque Yusuf Sharif, who has guided visitors around the building since the British Mandate, nervously points to the green doors, now firmly shut, through which Goldstein stepped to make his attack. He is happier showing the supposed entrance to the Cave of Machpelah, long sealed off, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place for 400 silver shekels.

The custodians of the mosque have painted over the bullet marks. Israeli soldiers have installed metal detector gates. But it is too late. The patrols and checkpoints, fitted to stop another suicide bomber, show that the cycle of violence which started when Baruch Goldstein fired into the backs of worshippers in Hebron has not yet ended.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all