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Israel imposes indefinite closure of checkpoints in southern West Bank

June 15, 2014 9:25 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 29, 2014 10:57 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military imposed an indefinite closure of checkpoints and crossings across the Hebron district of the southern West Bank beginning early Sunday morning, as Israeli forces expanded a search campaign for three settler youth who went missing Thursday evening.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon issued a directive on Saturday imposing the closure beginning at midnight, in a move that has severely disrupted life across the region as thousands of Palestinian workers are unable to travel to work in Israel.

An Israeli military statement said that although Israel will "facilitate crossings for humanitarian and medical assistance" in the "Judea/Hebron district" of the West Bank and at Erez crossing in Gaza, traffic for all others would be shut. The statement added that the Kerem Shalom crossing would be open to fuel shipments.

Also included in the decision are some 30,000 Palestinians who work in West Bank settlements, many of whom living in the southern West Bank districts affected.

Hebron residents under 50, meanwhile, have been prohibited from traveling to Jordan since Saturday.

A 2013 Palestinian census survey found that 103,000 Palestinians were employed in Israel in summer 2013, with over 60 percent employed in the construction sector.

Although Israel severely restricts work permits, many Palestinians cross without a permit drawn by significantly higher wages.

Israel maintains almost complete economic control over the Palestinian territories, restricting both imports and exports as well as any kind of industrial development.

As a result, Palestinians are both a captive market and labor force for Israeli employers. Due to high costs of living that result from Israel controls, work in Israel is attractive despite the lack of protections for Palestinian workers.

On Saturday, the Gas Station Owners' Union in the Gaza Strip said that 80 percent of gas stations in the besieged coastal enclave had run out of fuel, and that all would have shut down by the end of the day, due to the Israeli closure of the crossing since Friday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that checkpoints across the West Bank would be shut down, but in fact the Israeli army has said that checkpoints in the "Judea/Hebron district" of the southern West Bank will be closed. We regret the error.
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