Hamas warns over Israel president’s visit to Hebron flashpoint

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Hamas has warned of “repercussions” over plans by Israel’s president to visit a disputed holy site in the occupied West Bank during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

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On Friday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s office said he would take part in a candle-lighting the ceremony on Sunday at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The holy site, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarch, is revered by both faiths.

Hebron, which is the biggest city in the West Bank, is home to about 1,000 Jewish residents living under heavy Israeli military protection, among more than 200,000 Palestinians.

“The Israeli occupation must bear full responsibility to the repercussions of this assault,” Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official, said in a statement on Friday.

The candle-lighting “is a provocation of the Palestinians’ feelings and a blatant desecration of the sanctity of the mosque,” he said, calling on Palestinians “to ward off this provocative move”.

Hebron has seen regular unrest, and the shrine believed to be the burial site of biblical figures including Abraham, is frequently the focal point of tensions.

In 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers inside the shrine with an assault rifle before being beaten to death by survivors.

The announcement by Herzog’s office also drew the ire of Israel’s leftist anti-settlement Meretz party.

On Friday, Britain officially designated all of Hamas an “Islamist terrorist organisation”.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the group that rules the Gaza Strip, has been banned in Britain since 2001 but the ban has now been extended to its political entities.

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