21 years ago today, Israeli settler Baruc hGoldstein walked into Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque armed with an assault rifle and opened fire. It was early morning during the holy month of Ramadan and there were around 400 Palestinian men praying inside the mosque. The attack left 29 worshippers dead and 125 injured.

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Photo: Rich Wiles/Al Jazeera

During the protests that erupted in the occupied territories in the days following the massacre, Israeli forces killed
another 25 Palestinians and injured dozens more. Five Israelis died in the
violence.

The Israeli
military then divided the Ibrahimi mosque in two, giving exclusive access to
more than half of it to Israeli settlers.
In 1997
the city of Hebron (Al-Khalil in
 Arabic) was also divided in two zones (H1 and H2),
H1 being administered by the Palestinian Authority and H2 (which includes
Hebron historic Old City, home of the Ibrahimi mosque) being under full Israeli
military rule.

According to the Israeli human rights group
B’Tselem, at least 1,000
Palestinian homes in the Old City of Hebron had been vacated by their occupants
and more than 1,800 businesses had shut
 due to the Israeli
takeover.  Palestinians were restricted, at first from driving and later from
walking as well, on a large section of Shuhada Street – the city’s main commercial center – which was then renamed “Apartheid Street” by Palestinians. 

“They took our houses and shops too. The soldiers threw me out of our shop and welded the doors shut.” – Jamal, a shopkeeper in the Old City near the mosque.

Around 500
Israeli settlers
now live in the Old City (H2), alongside 40,000 Palestinians whose freedom of
movement has been severely restricted. Many of these settlers have illegally
occupied Palestinian houses and forcibly removed the original inhabitants. They are protected by thousands of Israeli
soldiers, and frequently harass local Palestinians.

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Photo: Rich Wiles/Al Jazeera 

To reach Ibrahimi mosque, Palestinians must
pass through Israeli military checkpoints and other various security measures, which have put many worshipers off going to
pray at the historic site.

See more Al-Jazeera pictures here