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Hebron road renamed "Apartheid Street"

Israeli border policemen stand guard near a temporary road block during a
protest against the continued closure by Israel of Shuhada street in the West
Bank city of Hebron September 14, 2011. [Reuters/Ammar Awad]
HEBRON (Reuters) -- Palestinians changed the name of Hebron's Shuhada street to Apartheid Street on Wednesday, to protest the prevailing conditions in areas of the West Bank town which are controlled by Israeli troops.

Aide to Hebron's Governor, Rafiq al-Jabari, said the name change would remain in effect until what he described as apartheid-like conditions had been eradicated in Hebron.

"At the entrance of Shuhada Street, we announce the temporary change of the name of the street to Apartheid Street, until the end of the Apartheid segregation that is enforced by the settlers under the protection of occupation soldiers," he said.

The road has often been a focus of friction between Hebron's Palestinian majority and the small group of Jewish settlers living in the town.

The road was first closed in 1994, after a settler killed 29 Palestinians in the mosque marking the burial place of biblical patriarch Abraham, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

An Israeli checkpoint which was built in the entrance of the street dates back to the September 2000 Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli restrictions on movement and access, many of them dating back to the uprising, have turned parts of the old city into a ghost town. Poverty has risen in a city that was traditionally an engine of the Palestinian economy.

One resident of the street, Palestinian Issa Amr, says life among the Israeli soldiers and settlers, who first arrived on his street in 1984, has become almost unbearable.

"We want to change the name Shuhada Street to Apartheid Street, to show that Palestinians suffer in this street. We are suffering from the theft of our rights and attacks against our properties, our children and our elders.

"In a street where we live, we are not allowed to walk in it or drive in it, we are not allowed to walk with animals in it. This is racist segregation," said Amr, an organizer of the Palestinian grassroots group Youth Against Settlements.

Around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians in the parts of the ancient city that are under Israeli control.

Reports of physical violence and stone-throwing from both sides signal deep hostility between the settlers and the Palestinians.

Hebron, dotted with Jewish settlements and divided into zones of Israeli and Palestinian control, is a microcosm of the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians have self-rule over islands of territory surrounded by areas of Israeli control.

Hebron was split into areas of Palestinian and Israeli control by agreement in 1997.

The Israeli-controlled "H2" area includes the settlements and the mosque and synagogue housed at Abraham's burial site, referred to as Tomb of the Patriarchs by Israelis and the Ibrahami Mosque by Palestinians. The Palestinian area of control, where another 170,000 Palestinians live, is called "H1".

Israeli restrictions on movement and access, many of them dating back to the Palestinian uprising at the start of the decade, have turned parts of H2 into a ghost town. Poverty has risen in a city that was traditionally an engine of the Palestinian economy.

Israel has said the Hebron settlements would be among those it would seek to keep in any peace deal, suggesting that more remote enclaves could be evacuated and that it would cede other land to the Palestinians in compensation.

Hebron road renamed "Apartheid Street"

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