Early on the morning of February 25, 1994, #Goldstein, wearing his army uniform and carrying his army-issued assault rifle, walked past Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint and into the Ibrahimi Mosque. It was the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims and there were 400 or 500 Palestinian men worshipping. According to reports, once inside, Goldstein observed the scene and waited until those present turned towards Mecca and knelt to pray before opening fire.
Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed and some 150 wounded before Goldstein’s victims subdued and beat him to death. According to a report in The New York Times, at least one Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers stationed outside the mosque as panicked survivors attempted to flee to safety and others may have died as a result of being repeatedly stopped en route to hospital by soldiers wanting to search the vehicles they were being transported in.
In the civil unrest that erupted across the occupied territories, Israeli soldiers killed more than 20 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.
As is often the case with gun massacres in the US and elsewhere, many eyewitnesses reported seeing more than one gunman, however no conclusive evidence has come to light proving there was more than one killer.
The massacre provoked international outrage and condemnation. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 904 without a vote, calling for “measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory.” Resolution 904 resulted in the creation of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), which was supposed to protect the Palestinian population. However, Israel has only allowed TIPH to act as observers, leaving Palestinians in Hebron at the mercy of settlers and the soldiers assigned to protect them.
In response to the international outcry, the Israeli government created a commission of inquiry that found Goldstein had acted alone, absolving Israel of any responsibility. It also outlawed Kach and its offshoot movements, as did the US government.
Instead of taking advantage of the situation to evacuate the relatively small number of settlers from Hebron, thereby reducing tensions and demonstrating goodwill, Rabin’s government temporarily disarmed a few of the most extreme before rewarding them, including increasing their access to the mosque. At the same time, Israel clamped down on Palestinian residents of Hebron with severe restrictions on their movements and other measures. Israeli measures taken in Hebron following the massacre include:
A round-the-clock curfew was imposed on Palestinian residents.
Israel forcibly divided the Ibrahimi Mosque to create a separate prayer space for Jews with a separate entrance. In addition, the mosque would be opened exclusively for Jews 10 days a year, and Muslims 10 days a year.
Palestinian shopkeepers on Shuhada Street in the heart of Hebron were forced to close their businesses, which were welded shut by the Israeli army, under the pretext of securing settlers living on the busy commercial artery.
Palestinians were restricted, at first from driving and later from walking as well, on a large section of Shuhada Street, prompting its nickname of “Apartheid Street.” The US government spent millions of dollars through USAID renovating Shuhada Street prior to its segregation, most of which is now reserved for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers.
Numerous new Israeli military checkpoints and obstacles to movement were put in place making it difficult for Palestinians to move around the city, including children who must pass through checkpoints to get to school.
Except for the curfew, twenty years later all of these measures remain in place. According to a November 2013 UN fact sheet:
There are over 120 obstacles to Palestinian movement designed to segregate “restricted areas” (settlements and surrounding areas) from the rest of the city, including 18 permanently manned military checkpoints.
Several streets in the center of downtown Hebron that lead to the settlements are prohibited for Palestinian traffic and some also for pedestrian movement.
512 Palestinian businesses in the restricted areas have been closed by the Israeli military and at least 1100 others have closed due to restricted access for customers and suppliers.
More than 1000 Palestinian homes located in the restricted areas, over 40% of the area’s residences, have been abandoned, according to a survey by B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The fact sheet also noted:
Access restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities in H2 [the 20% of Hebron under direct and total Israeli control], compounded by systematic harassment by Israeli settlers and, occasionally, by Israeli forces, have resulted in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and the deterioration of the living conditions of those who stayed.
Palestinians living in the restricted areas face serious challenges in accessing basic services, including schools, emergency health services and water and sanitation.
The Israeli authorities justify the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population as a means to protect the Israeli settlers residing in the city, as well as other Israeli visitors, and to allow settlers to lead a normal life. However, as with all other Israeli settlements, the settlements in the heart of Hebron City are illegal under international humanitarian law.
There are serious gaps in the enforcement of the rule of law on Israeli settlers involved in violence and intimidation against Palestinians. Incidents include acts of vandalism, property damage, physical attacks, verbal abuse, and the harassment of children on their way to school. The large majority of complaints about settler attacks filed in recent years have been closed by the Israeli Police without indictment.