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Israeli army ends closed military zone in Hebron's Tel Rumeida

May 19, 2016 10:45 A.M. (Updated: May 21, 2016 4:53 P.M.)
An Israeli soldier stands guard in Hebron. (MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel stopped renewing a closed military zone order in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of the city of Hebron, the Israeli army said on Thursday, adding that some non-residents could now enter the area.

“Following a situation assessment in the Tel Rumeida area in Hebron, the restrictions which were implemented for security purposes have been relieved,” an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an.

However, she added that “restrictions regarding the entrance of non-residents between the ages of 15 and 30” were still in place pending the approval of “new orders.”

Jawad Abu Aisheh, an activist with Youth Against Settlements (YAS), told Ma'an on Thursday that the Palestinian liaison office had informed his organization the Israeli army had not renewed its closed military zone order on May 15.

The end of the closed military zone in Tel Rumeida marked the first time the neighborhood of the flashpoint occupied West Bank city is reopened to the public since Nov. 1, 2015.

Since then, Israeli authorities had renewed the closed military zone order every couple of weeks.

In a statement, local activist group YAS attributed the “success to the Open the Zone campaign that YAS and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) launched on May 3.”

Dozens of activist groups had been pushing for the reopening of Tel Rumeida for the past seven months

For the past six months, non-residents -- including relatives, medics, or journalists -- had been barred from entering Tel Rumeida, while residents were assigned numbers and had to pass through a checkpoint to leave or enter their homes.

Abu Aisheh said that a number of people who did not reside in Tel Rumeida had been able to enter the area in the past several days.

YAS coordinator Issa Amro was quoted in the organization's statement as saying that the closed military order on Tel Rumeida was “a thinly-disguised attempt to forcibly displace of the Palestinians from Hebron's old city where illegal Israeli settlers reside.”

YAS reiterated that the Tel Rumeida closure was only one of many issues facing Palestinians in Hebron.

“Palestinians in Hebron continue to suffer from massive closures, restrictions, and violence,” the group said, highlighting the case of Shuhada Street, which has been almost entirely closed off to Palestinians since 1994.

“Youth Against Settlements will continue working to end the systems of apartheid and separation in Hebron until the military occupation of the West Bank is ended and equality is achieved for all people in Palestine.”

Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in 1997 under the Oslo agreements.

The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control, known as H2.

The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers, carried out in the presence of the forces.

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