Tense Hebron waits for retaliation

About 80,000 Palestinians and 4,500 Jewish settlers live in Hebron but yesterday it looked like a city inhabited only by Israelis. After an undercover squad from the border police killed three men, allegedly members of Hamas, as they tried to escape through a grove of spruce trees, Palestinians in Hebron were ordered to stay in their houses.

In the centre of the city, the only Palestinians on the streets were two toddlers, presumably unaware of the curfew. Protected by soldiers on the rooftops and at every street corner, settlers from the Jewish suburb of Kiryat Arba - many carrying sub-machine guns and pistols - were taken by bus for Passover prayers to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the holiest shrine in the country outside Jerusalem for both Muslims and Jews.

Retaliation by Hamas, although not necessarily in Hebron, is expected by Israelis and Palestinians alike. In recent months, Islamic militants have invariably responded with suicide bombs to killings by Israeli undercover units. Fresh attacks were predicted yesterday by the Israeli army commander of the West Bank, Brigadier-General Ilan Biran. "We ask people not to hitchhike and definitely to close their car windows and be on full alert,'' he said.

The place where the three Palestinians died is a wooded hilltop, some distance from the centre of Hebron. The army said the three, identified by the Israeli army as Adel Falah, 23, and Jihad Ghulmeh, 25, both wanted men, and Tarek Natche, 22, were armed and on their way to make an attack. But the dusty track where their white Subaru was riddled with bullets does not lead anywhere and they may have turned into it in a final, desperate effort to shake off those pursuing them.

Local people who broke the curfew to build a small shrine among the trees with green and black flags refused to say if they thought there would be revenge. One man, called Abdullah, said: "We are all very angry."

In Hebron, anger tends to take a physical form. A senior Israeli diplomat has dated the beginning of the collapse of the peace negotiations with the PLO to the failure of the government to remove extreme Jewish settlers from the centre of Hebron after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 worshippers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs last year.

Extremist settlers were very much in business yesterday. At the foot of the steps going up to the Tomb of the Patriarchs there were tables selling buttons reading: "Hebron now and for ever." There were no Muslims visible in al-Ibrahimi mosque, which since 1967 has shared the building with a synagogue. During Passover, it is given over entirely to Jewish worship on some days. Prayer rugs were pushed behind a screen. Two Israeli soldiers guarded the green door where Goldstein stood when he first opened fire. At the entrance to the synagogue there are now two armouries for temporary storage of weapons belonging to worshippers.

Not all those praying beside the tombs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives were settlers. Many were the ultra-Orthodox in black hats and suits who had taken one of several closely guarded buses from Jerusalem.

They looked relaxed and incurious about why the city they had driven through looked like a ghost town. But, driving back to Jerusalem, the convoy of buses suddenly stopped.

Soldiers pointed nervously ahead at a black object in the middle of the road which they said might be a bomb. It looked more like a bit of discarded plastic. But at a time when everybody is waiting for the next bomb, it was enough to close the main road to Jerusalem for several hours.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions