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Tulkarem completely sealed as Israeli forces search for gunman

Dec. 10, 2015 10:05 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 10, 2015 6:48 P.M.)
TULKAREM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces maintained a complete closure Thursday of the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem in the search for a gunman who injured a former member of a Jewish terror group and his wife, locals said.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces on Wednesday night raided Tulkarem and surrounding areas directly after the shooting, closing entrances leading into the city with cement blocks.

Israeli forces retreated from Tulkarem early Thursday morning and remained deployed near city entrances, locals said.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that “in order to locate the gunman from last night’s attack, security measures were implemented in Tulkarem.”

The measures began with security checks at all entrances and exits of the area, which were later closed completely, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that all entrances and exits leading into Tulkarem were still closed Thursday and would remain closed to all movement “except for humanitarian cases.”

Sealed entrances included Tulkarem’s eastern entrance near Noor Shams refugee camp, the entrances of Kafa and Dhinnaba villages, as well as the main road between the villages of Shufa and Ezbet Shufa, locals told Ma’an.

The Shufa and Ezbet Shufa villages are located southeast from Tulkarem and are near to the Avne Hafez settlement that the Nir couple was travelling to when they were shot.

Locals were reportedly attempting to use dirt roads to enter and exit the city of Tulkarem, home to over 50,000 Palestinians.

The closures are likely to affect the movement of the nearly 200,000 Palestinians living in the Tulkarem governorate.

Separately, the main entrance of the al-Ram neighborhood north of Jerusalem was also sealed late Wednesday by cement blocks, preventing residents from moving in or out.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that al-Ram had been sealed following a series of "violent riots" adjacent to the main entrance, adding that alternative routes were open for travel.

Israeli forces also closed the road between Hebron city and Bani Naim, a village east of Hebron, locals told Ma'an.

The most recent closures came hours after Shaul Nir, a former member of the Jewish Underground -- a group which carried out a string of terror attacks in the 1980s -- was seriously to moderately wounded in a drive-by shooting Wednesday night. His wife, Rachel Nir, was lightly wounded.

Israel’s security cabinet last month gave the military the liberty to seal Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank while “searching for suspected terrorists,” without first receiving approval from the government.

The military was already carrying out the decision without such approval prior to the cabinet's decision, according to Israeli media.

Israeli military forces have implemented closures over the past two months throughout the occupied West Bank, one of several measures taken in attempt “deter” attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military and civilians.

Such closures across the Hebron district last month were condemned by Israeli rights group B’Tselem as “collective punishment."

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