Hamas calls for West Bank to ‘rise up’ over holy sites

Gaza–Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya on Tuesday called on Palestinians in the West Bank to "rise up" against Israel over a plan to restore two contested holy sites in the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked outrage on Sunday when he said he hoped to include Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in a national heritage plan.

"The decision requires a real response in the West Bank and for the people to rise up in the face of the Israeli occupation and to break every shackle in confronting it," Haniya told reporters.

"(The project) aims to erase our identity, alter our Islamic monuments and steal our history," he added.

Hamas has in the past made similar calls for uprisings in the occupied West Bank, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority has been confined since the Islamist group seized Gaza in June 2007.

In Hebron there was sporadic stone throwing from Palestinian youths near the Ibrahimi mosque above the Tomb of the Patriarchs but there were no reports of anyone being wounded.

The site has often been the scene of tensions between Palestinians and a few hundred hardline settlers who live there under heavy military protection and have converted part of the mosque into a synagogue.

Meanwhile in Bethlehem shops and schools were closed in a day-long general strike and youth set tyres on fire in some areas, an AFP correspondent said.

The final list of the sites to be included in the 100-million-dollar restoration project is still under discussion, but Netanyahu’s remarks drew protests from the Palestinians, the United Nations, Jordan and Egypt.


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