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Israeli forces close main checkpoint in Nablus

July 4, 2015 12:44 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2015 9:11 P.M.)
An Israeli soldier at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on July 3, 2015. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces closed the Huwwara military checkpoint in both directions and set up flying checkpoints south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Palestinian security sources said.

A major entrance and exit into Nablus, Israeli forces officially informed Palestinian security officials that the Huwwara checkpoint would be closed from from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Saturday for security purposes.

Palestinian vehicles coming in and out of Nablus were diverted to the nearby Awarta checkpoint.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate comment on the closure.

Huwwara is one of several Israeli military checkpoints in the Nablus area, where an increasing number of Israeli settlers has been matched by an increasing presence of Israeli forces, who regularly make incursions into Palestinian communities.

Saturday's checkpoint closure was the latest move restricting the movement of local residents.

The Nablus governorate, comprising Nablus city, three refugee camps and fifteen villages, is home to over 200,000 Palestinians whose movement has been several restricted for the past six years, with Israeli human rights group B'Tselem describing military restrictions on locals as a "siege."

Entry and exit is possible only via one of four Israeli checkpoints in the surrounding area.

Rights group Association for Civil Rights filed a petition demanding the "siege" on the area be lifted following its implementation in 2006.

While the Israeli army argued that such encirclement enables effective control of those entering and leaving the area, making it easier for security forces to thwart "terrorist attacks," local residents believe the presence aims to protect expanding settlements.

Tensions between Palestinian locals and Israeli settlers and military have been on the rise in the area over the past week.

On Friday, a group of Israeli settlers from the illegal Yitzhar settlement in southern Nablus smashed several Palestinian vehicles with stones, days after three Israeli settlers were injured and one killed in a shooting in the same area.

Israeli military checkpoints have been the site of frequent violence since the start of Ramadan, with two Palestinians killed by Israeli forces at checkpoints and several more injured.
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