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Locals: Closed military zone extended for additional month in Hebron

Jan. 3, 2016 10:54 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2016 2:51 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- The Israeli army extended the designation of parts of Hebron’s Old City as a closed military zone for an additional month, locals said.

The areas around Tel Rumeida and al-Shuhada Street in the occupied West Bank city were initially designated a closed military zone in November and have been sealed since.

Palestinian residents of the area were required to register for special permits to cross through the 18 military checkpoints in the city center, while all others -- excluding Israeli settlers -- have been banned entry.

Director of an organization that monitors violations of Israeli military and settlers in the area, Issa Amro, told Ma’an that the extension of the military order was a “purely political” move to support settlers in the area.

Amro condemned what he believed to be the military orders’ intent to shut down human rights and media organizations in the area documenting human rights violations committed by Israeli forces and settlers, and to "empty the area of Palestinian residents."

Settlers living in Hebron’s Old City have repeatedly called for the closure of Amro’s organization, Youth Against Settlements. Members of the group have reported raids of the organization’s headquarters by settlers and Israeli forces, as well as assault on its members.

Mufid al-Sharabati, a resident of the Old City, told Ma’an that the new restrictions have made Palestinian residents suffer more than usual.

Al-Sharabati said that visits by friends and relatives are banned and residents have been unable to bring in cooking gas through checkpoints leading into the closed areas, adding that technicians have not been allowed in to make repairs in local homes.

Palestinian residents have also faced continued harassment from Israeli forces and settlers, al-Sharabati told Ma’an.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on the extension of the closed military zone.

Following documentation of restrictions placed in the area by Israeli forces since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October, B’Tselem said that the restrictions protect Israeli settlers in the area while punishing the greater Palestinian public.

While the Israeli army pledged following the declaration of the closed military zone in November to "continue to allow as normal a fabric of life as possible for all residents," B'Tselem said the statement was "a far cry from reality."

"There has been no 'normal fabric of life' in Hebron for many days, and the measures taken in the name of security are draconian and not dictated by reality," the group said at the time.

Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah last month called for the presence of Palestinian security forces in areas of Hebron in order to provide "security and protection" for Palestinians, but the call has yet to come to fruition.

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