JERUSALEM, Israel - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that if he is re-elected in Tuesday's national election he will annex Kiryat Arba and the Jewish sections of Hebron.
Netanyahu made the promise in an interview with Israel's Army Radio. It is a promise that goes much further than the vow he made while visiting the West Bank city on September 5, when he said the contested city "will not be devoid of Jews. It will not be 'judenrein.'"
The prime minister was speaking at a ceremony marking 90 years since the 1929 Hebron massacre when 67 Jews were killed. It was the first time an Israeli leader had given a public address in Hebron since that event.
Netanyahu's visit to Hebron earlier this month stoked anger among Palestinian leaders.
"We hold the Israeli government responsible for the dangerous escalation which aims at dragging the area into a religious war that no one can bear its consequences," Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Hebron is a holy place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The city is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs - where Abraham, his sons, and their wives are believed to be buried.
Hebron, which is only about 18.6 miles from Jerusalem, used to be a model of co-existence between Jews and Muslims. Jews and Arabs lived side-by-side in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, tensions were strained as more Jews began immigrating to the land.
The tensions came to a head during the Hebron massacre, making it virtually impossible for Jews to live there.
Over the years, an increasing number of Jews have settled in Hebron.