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Israel's blockade on Hebron continues, thousands of permits revoked for Palestinians

July 2, 2016 11:35 A.M. (Updated: July 3, 2016 4:37 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- The Israeli-imposed blockade on the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron remained in effect on Saturday, after Israeli forces sealed the entire district, while maintaining a complete lockdown on the village of Bani Naim, revoking travel permits to Israel for some 2,700 of its residents, and reportedly detaining several Palestinians across Hebron overnight.

Hebron's closure was implemented on Friday amid a massive manhunt for the suspect responsible for a shooting attack which left an Israeli man dead, his wife critically injured, and his two children lightly to moderately injured while driving in their car near the illegal Otniel settlement south of Hebron where the family was from.

Israeli forces deployed heavily across Hebron overnight Friday and arrested "several" suspects in connection to the shooting, Israeli media reported. However, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that they did not have reports of any detentions being made in the occupied West Bank at all, despite the fact that detention raids are carried out on a near-nightly basis, particularly in the wake of attacks on Israeli targets.

Israeli forces closed the entrances of the villages of Beit Einun, Sair, al-Thahiriyah, al-Fawwar, al-Samu, Dura, Farsh al-Hawa, and al-Fawwar refugee camp, while blocking the entrance of the village of Nabi Younis with large cement blocks, according to locals.

Israeli checkpoints were also erected at the entrances of Sair, al-Hawawir, and the al-Arrub refugee camp as Israeli forces searched any cars attempting to cross the checkpoints. Locals said the main entrance to Beit Ummar was closed with an iron gate.

Locals and Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers and military vehicles were deployed from the village of al-Samu in the southern part of Hebron to the al-Arrub refugee camp in the north.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that all crossings to and from Hebron have been closed, with the exception of urgent humanitarian cases, to “prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks.” The spokesperson could not provide details on the expected duration of the blockade.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have imposed a complete lockdown on the village of Bani Naim in Hebron, the hometown of 17-year-old Muhammad Tarayra who was killed on Thursday after stabbing a 13-year-old Israeli girl to death in nearby Kiryat Arba -- a major illegal Israeli settlement built on privately-held Palestinian land used as a central connecting point for the expansion of illegal settlements into the city of Hebron.

A spokesperson of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, confirmed that 2,700 Palestinians had their permits revoked that allowed them to travel outside of the occupied West Bank and work in Israel.

A young Palestinian woman, identified as 27-year-old Sarah Tarayra, also from Bani Naim, was killed on Friday by Israeli forces after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli border police office near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. 

Although the two slain Palestinians from Bani Naim share the same surname, it remained unclear whether the two were related.

Another Palestinian was shot dead on Thursday by an Israeli civilian after allegedly carrying out a stab attack in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya that left two Israelis wounded. His hometown in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem has also been placed under blockade.

The town of Yatta in Hebron, where two cousins originated from who carried out a shooting in Tel Aviv last month that left four Israelis killed and more than a dozen injured, has also been tightly closed by Israeli forces, according to Israeli media. Following the attack, Israeli forces sealed off the town and carried out nightly detention raids in the community, including implementing a large-scale closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and revoking the permits of 83,000 Palestinians to enter Israel.

The recent closure on the district of Hebron is said to be the greatest closure placed inside the occupied West Bank since 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and then killed.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s office on Friday also ordered that the money being transferred by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to “terrorists and their families” be deducted immediately from monthly tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA -- a total of $130 million, referring to money paid by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to former and current Palestinian prisoners, families of prisoners in Israeli custody, and families of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party, told Haaretz on Friday that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately convene the security cabinet following the attack in Kiryat Arba. A meeting was expected to be held on Saturday.

Bennett said he intended to propose a number of punitive measures in response to the attacks at the meeting, including the construction of new residential and industrial areas in Kiryat Arba, plans for which have already been approved.

The minister also told Haaretz he would propose that the mother and sister of the Palestinian who carried out the Kiryat Arba attack be arrested, and that Israeli authorities carry out all approved demolition orders against Palestinian structures for not having required and rarely granted permits.

Bennet will also reportedly suggest that internet and cellular access be cut off in Hebron to prevent “incitement.”

In less than two days, three Palestinians have been killed after allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis -- and a fourth died during clashes, marking an uptick in violence after a few months of relative reprieve from a wave of violence and unrest which has swept across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel since October, leaving more than 220 Palestinians and some 32 Israelis killed.

The Hebron area in particular grew as the epicenter of upheaval, with Israeli authorities severely restricting the movement of Palestinians by declaring the area of Tel Rumeida and other parts of the Old City as a "closed military zone" for several months in November amid dozens of incidents in which more than 40 Palestinians were killed.

Israel’s response to attacks -- such as punitive home demolitions, the sealing of entire villages, mass detention campaigns, and withholding the bodies of Palestinians slain while committing attacks -- has been condemned by rights groups, who have said the measures amount to “collective punishment” and represent a clear violation of international law.

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