Provided by the Government Press Office
Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is obligated to safeguard holy sites and ensure free access to them.
According to Annex III, Appendix I, Article 32 of the Oslo 2 accord which was signed on September 28, 1995:
2. Both sides shall respect and protect the listed below religious rights of Jews, Christians, Moslems and Samaritans:
a. protection of the Holy Sites;
b. free access to the Holy Sites; and
c. freedom of worship and practice.”
In addition to this general obligation, the Oslo 2 accord (Article V of Annex I) also spells out specific arrangements concerning particular sites such as the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus, the Shalom al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, and the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem. These arrangements are designed to ensure free access to the sites and their protection.
1) Abrahamâs Oak Russian Monastery – located in the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron, the monastery belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On July 5, 1997, Palestinian policemen arrived at the monastery and ordered the monks and nuns to vacate the premises. When they refused, the Palestinian policemen broke down the doors and began to curse and beat them. One nun was assaulted by both male and female Palestinian policemen, who punched her in the stomach and pounded her head against a wall. The Abbess of the monastery was physically dragged along the floor as her head hit the stones, and she had to be hospitalized. One of the monks was handcuffed, thrown to the ground and stomped upon by Palestinian policemen. The PA officers physically removed all of the monks and nuns, and took over the site.
2) Tomb of Rachel – The Tomb, located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, is the burial site of the Biblical matriarch Rachel and is under Israeli control. During the September 1996 riots, the PA orchestrated riots near the Tomb in which a Palestinian mob assaulted the site and hurled rocks and firebombs at it, causing damage to the outer part of the structure. Palestinian policemen on the scene shot and wounded Israeli soldiers guarding the Tomb.
3) Tomb of Joseph – Located in Nablus, the Tomb is the burial site of the Biblical figure Joseph.
During the September 1996 riots, a Palestinian mob led by Palestinian policemen assaulted the Tomb. Palestinian security agents opened fire on Israeli troops at the site, killing 6 Israeli soldiers. After the Israeli forces temporarily withdrew, the Palestinian mob entered the site and set fire to it. They burned the Jewish prayer books, Bibles and religious articles inside the structure and caused extensive damage.
Denial of Freedom of Access by the PA
There is a Jewish holy site which the PA has actively prevented Jews from visiting:
Ancient Synagogue in Gaza – Located in Gaza are the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue which is one of the oldest ever found in the region. Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords, prayer sessions were held there on a regular basis. Since the establishment of the PA, the Palestinians have refused to allow Jews to visit the site, claiming that it is in a “closed zone” near the offices of PA Chairman Arafat.