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Israeli army increases presence in Hebron in wake of alleged attacks

Sept. 17, 2016 10:11 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 18, 2016 6:26 P.M.)
Israeli settlers tour Hebron's Old City under armed guard, severely restricting Palestinian freedom of movement. (Christian Peacemakers Team, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army is set to deploy an additional battalion in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, it was revealed Saturday, in the wake of a number of alleged attacks committed by Palestinians in the area that left three Palestinians shot dead and one critically injured by Israeli forces in less than 48 hours.

“In accordance with situation assessments following recent terror attacks, the (Israeli army) is deploying a battalion to reinforce the area of Hebron,” a statement released by the Israeli army on social media said.

Israeli forces on Saturday also placed the Hebron-area village of Bani Naim under a full military blockade, preventing Palestinians from entering or exiting the village, after Israeli forces searched several homes in the village and delivered notices to several Palestinians summoning them for interrogation.

The raid on the village came after Israeli forces shot dead Fares Moussa Muhammad Khaddour, 18, while critically wounding his fiancee Raghad Khaddour, also 18, both residents of Bani Naim, after the two allegedly carried out a car ramming attack at the Elias junction near the illegal Israeli Kiryat Arba settlement outside of Hebron’s Old City.

Fares Khaddour was one of five who were shot dead by Israeli forces since Thursday evening.

He was killed by Israeli forces some 45 minutes after a Jordanian citizen was shot and killed by Israeli forces after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack outside Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem.

Less than two hours after Israeli forces shot dead Fares Khaddour, 15-year-old Muhammad-Thalji Kayid Thalji al-Rajabi was also shot and killed in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron’s Old City after reportedly stabbing and lightly injuring an Israeli soldier.

On Saturday morning, Israeli forces also shot dead 25-year-old Hatim Abd al-Hafeeth Shaludi in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Ahmad Abd al-Fattah al-Sarrahin, 30, was killed on Thursday after succumbing to gunshot wounds sustained earlier in the day when Israeli forces raided the village of Beit Ula in the district of Hebron and opened live fire on al-Sarrahin as soldiers struggled to detain him.

In a statement issued on Friday, Director of the Hebron district office for Israel's Coordinator of Israeli Government's Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Hariz Safadi said Israeli authorities planned to impose strict punitive measures in the villages where the slain Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks had resided.

Only a month ago, Israeli forces lifted a more than one-month military blockade on Bani Naim, imposed in July 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.

The manhunt was concluded when the gunman was killed after Israeli forces bombarded and destroyed a house while he was inside, by firing anti-tank missiles at the house and ultimately razing it to the ground with bulldozers.

The home of his accomplice, who was later imprisoned by Israel, was also punitively demolished, leaving his entire family homeless.

Israeli forces also detained scores of Hebron residents in nightly raids, restricted movement for tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians living in the Hebron area, revoked Israeli travel permits for some 2,700 residents, and cut tax transfers collected by Israel on behalf of the PA in the wake of the attacks.

Since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel that as of Friday left 227 Palestinians killed by Israelis and 32 Israelis killed by Palestinians, Israel has come under harsh international condemnation for its response to attacks, which rights groups have said amounted to “collective punishment” and represents a clear violation of international law.

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, while July’s closures on Hebron saw the most widespread restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank in two years.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently unveiled a "carrot and stick" policy toward Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, whereby harsher punishment would be imposed upon families and villages from which "terrorists" originate, while economic benefits would be granted to areas that "have not produced terrorists."

Lieberman said the purpose of the policy was “to continue to give benefits to those who desire coexistence with us and make life difficult for those who seek to harm Jews.”

"Anyone who is prepared for coexistence will prosper, while those who opt for terrorism will lose.”

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