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Israel reopens entrance to Hebron-area town after months of closure

April 24, 2016 8:28 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2016 2:19 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on June 15, 2014. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces on Sunday reopened a main entrance to the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim after nearly seven months of military closure, an Israeli liaison said.

The entrance -- serving some 30,000 locals -- was sealed after large-scale clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli military broke out near the village in the beginning of October when a fresh wave of violence spread across the occupied Palestinian territory.

Director of the Hebron district office for Israel's Coordinator of Israeli Government's Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Hariz Safadi said the entrance was reopened due to “calm that prevailed” in the town.

Safadi said COGAT would “continue to introduce new developments in Hebron in light of the relatively quiet situation,” adding that the administrative body for the occupied area was “interested in taking steps to make residents’ life easier.”

Israeli forces earlier this month reopened a road that connects Bani Naim to a major bypass highway and enables crucial access to the city of Hebron, just east of the village.

The re-openings mark a gradual easing of severe movement restrictions placed on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank by the Israeli military, a potential indication that the past nearly seven months of violence is winding down.

The Hebron district, where Bani Naim is located, was a focal point of a number of attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israeli military and settler targets that increased in October.

The district was the hardest hit in the occupied West Bank when the Israeli authorities responded to the escalation in violence with severe restrictions on movement, and was effectively put on lockdown by the Israeli military for months in a move Israeli rights group B'Tselem described as "draconian."

The number of Palestinian and Israeli deaths saw a dramatic drop over the last two months, with the Israeli leadership suggesting its severe security measures are responsible for the emerging trend.

However, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in a poll last month that support for stabbing attacks had seen a decline in the West Bank in recent months -- "due, it seems, to a rising perception in its inefficacy."

Mass closures by the Israeli military of Palestinian towns and districts during the past wave of violence brought criticism from both Israeli officials and the international community, who argued such restrictions -- labelled by many as collective punishment -- were likely to exacerbate tensions.
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