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Israel lifts siege on Bani Naim after more than a month under a military blockade

Aug. 11, 2016 10:53 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 14, 2016 3:47 P.M.)
Hebron (MaanImages, Charlie Hoyle)
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces have decided to lift the blockade on the village of Bani Naim in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron after more than one month under an Israeli military blockade, according to a source from the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Israeli authorities have reportedly lifted the blockade and eased security restrictions for Bani Naim residents, including reinstating more than 2,000 work permits revoked during the closure, while allowing residents to visit their family members held inside Israeli prisons starting next week.

A source from the ministry told Ma’an that a meeting was held between Israeli authorities, representatives from the civil affairs ministry in Hebron, the mayor of Bani Naim, and representatives from the municipality, as Israeli authorities reportedly decided to ease the security restrictions as a result of the relative calm in the area since the start of the closure.

Palestinian officials also reportedly demanded the return of slain Palestinian bodies currently being held by Israeli authorities.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that she could not confirm the lifting of the siege, and said that the security situation remained “dynamic” and decisions would be made depending on “ongoing security assessments.”

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an she would look reports.

The village of Bani Naim was put under a military closure after a resident of the village killed a 13-year-old Israeli girl and wounded another Israeli in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement. The Palestinian attacker was shot dead at the scene.

Following the siege of Bani Naim, the entire district of Hebron was also put under a military closure 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.

An Israeli army spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on whether the security restrictions implemented on the district of Hebron have also been lifted.

Israeli forces have also detained scores of Palestinians in nightly raids, and restricted movement for tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians living in the Hebron area, while revoking Israeli travel permits for some 2,700 residents.

At least 217 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis and some 32 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since a wave of unrest first swept across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.

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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