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Masked soldiers post closed zone signs in Bil'in, Ni'lin

March 15, 2010 3:58 P.M. (Updated: March 16, 2010 9:20 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Dozens of masked soldiers raided the West Bank villages of Bil'in and Nil'in Monday morning to post decrees designating the village's lands closed military zones on Fridays for a period of six months, residents said.

The areas between the wall and built up villages will be declared closed military zones every Friday between 8am and 8pm for six months, the military decrees read.

According to a statement issued by Bil'in's Popular Committee, the move comes one week after the head of the Israeli Shin Bet threatened to step-up action against the Palestinian popular struggle in the two villages that see weekly protests against the separation wall's construction.

The Popular Committee said the decrees went into effect on 17 February, before their distribution, and were signed by Commander of the Israeli Central Command Avi Mizrahi.

According to the Israeli army spokesperson's unit, "The closed military zone order in the area between the security fence and the villages of Naalin [sic] and Bilin was signed three weeks ago in hopes of preventing the arrival of inciting elements," the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharanoth wrote.

"The order does not apply to the residents of the villages and they will be allowed to move freely."

Israeli citizens and international passport holders will not be allowed access to the area according to the decree, which includes the area where weekly protests are held.

Lawyer Gaby Lasky, who represents residents of the villages, told the Popular Committee, that "this is yet another illegal measure taken by the Army, which makes ill use of its authority in order to suppress dissent and infringe on the already volatile freedom of speech in the Territories. Closed military zone orders are not meant to deal with demonstrations, which are clearly in the civic rather than the military realm."

The statement said the issuing of the decrees happens amidst an ongoing persecution campaign against Palestinian activists in an attempt to suppress "the rising tide of West Bank popular resistance to the Occupation," which include the detention of 17 Israeli activists in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, on Friday as they protested home evictions in the area.
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