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Israel lifts blockade of Qabatiya after three days

Feb. 6, 2016 11:36 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 7, 2016 5:01 P.M.)
An Israeli soldier checks the documents of a Palestinian driver at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on June 17, 2014. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army lifted on Saturday evening the siege on the village of Qabatiya, which has been blockaded for three days in a row after three residents of the town carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Civil Affairs department in Jenin said on Saturday evening that Israeli forces has lifted the siege on the village of Qabatiya near Jenin.

An Israeli army spokesperson had previously told Ma'an that Israeli forces would reopen roads leading in and out of the village at around 10:00 p.m. local time on Saturday evening.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had decried earlier on Saturday the “collective punishment” imposed by Israel on residents of Qabatiya.

“Ongoing Israeli policies of collective punishment, field executions, and blockading Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps will worsen the security situation in the area,” Hamdallah said.

“By confining our people and suffocating them with military checkpoints, Israel is violating all international laws and conventions,” he added.

The PM held Israel responsible for ongoing deterioration of the situation in Qabatiya , which has seen ongoing clashes between Palestinian youths in the village and military forces.

Hamdallah also denounced the death of 14-year-old Haitham Ismail al-Baw, killed by Israeli forces the day before in what he termed a summary execution by Israel.

The child was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after the Israeli army said he threw a Molotov cocktail at vehicles travelling on Route 60 by the village of Halhul north of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The PM in a statement called on the international community to stop Israeli violations, pointing to al-Baw’s death as the “latest” in a series of “field executions” to be carried out by Israel.

The Palestinian National and Islamic and Forces called for a comprehensive strike to take place on Sunday in Jenin and its surroundings in support of residents of Qabatiya.

The political coalition told Ma’an on Saturday that a comprehensive strike would take place all day Sunday in the area to protest Israeli forces’ closure of all of Qabatiya’s entrances and its detention of locals. It was unclear on Saturday evening after the Israeli army's announcement whether the strike would still take place.

Meanwhile in Qabatiya, least 13 residents have been injured by live fire during clashes with Israeli forces since the town was first sealed on Wednesday. A 15-year-old boy was also critically injured after being run over by a military jeep.

Nine Palestinians were injured when Israeli forces fired live bullets and tear gas at Qabatiya residents on Friday, and 24-year-old was shot in the abdomen and detained when clashes broke out during a night raid.

The closure began Wednesday evening hours after the attack left an Israeli Border Police officer dead and another moderately injured.

Entrance and exit to Qabatiya’s around 20,000 residents has been prevented ever since. The army spokesperson told Ma’an that some residents had been allowed passage, but in only in accordance with humanitarian concerns.

Three Qabatiya residents in their early 20s, Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil, and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Rub, were shot dead during Wednesday’s attack and laid to rest Friday night.

Israel is expected to carry out punitive demolitions on the family homes of all three, while work permits have been revoked from several Qabatiya residents.

Hamdallah’s warning that continued Israeli blockades of Palestinian areas would worsen the security situation comes as Israel has implemented closures throughout the occupied Palestinian territory following attacks on Israeli military or civilians since October.

The closures have severely restricted the movement of Palestinians, whose ability to move freely throughout the occupied West Bank is already limited.

International actors as well as an Israeli military commander last month warned that such policy could exacerbate an already tense situation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon last month criticized Israeli policy, saying that it was "human nature" for Palestinians to react violently to Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation.

Moon condemned the series of violent attacks carried out by Palestinians in recent months, but said that Israeli security measures were failing to "address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians -- especially young people."
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