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Palestinians perform Friday prayers in Salfit near land declared Israeli military post

May 26, 2017 10:40 P.M. (Updated: May 29, 2017 6:30 P.M.)
SALFIT (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army declared an area in the village of Deir Istiya in the occupied West Bank district of Salfit a “military post” and banned tens of Palestinians from entering the area to perform Friday prayers in support of some 1,300 Palestinian prisoners on their 40th day of a mass hunger strike.

Local activist Muaed Aqil told Ma’an that the Israeli army declared the area of Wadi Abu Nasser in the village a military post, and refused to allow residents to enter the area.

Coordinator of the village’s popular resistance Rizq Abu Nasser told Ma’an that Israeli forces had distributed fliers to residents claiming that the area was an Israeli military post. He added that Israeli forces evacuated the area by force and prevented Palestinians from drawing Palestinian flags on walls the army had erected to close off the area.

Aqil said that Palestinians instead held Friday prayers in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers on lands near an agricultural road that had been closed by Israeli forces last year.

He added that the Israeli army surrounded the Palestinians during the prayer. Later Palestinians demonstrated in the area holding Palestinian flags.

Aqil told Ma’an that Israeli forces attempted to detain one of the protesters, but other residents forced the soldiers to release him. The demonstration ended without any reports of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the Israeli army closures.

According to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), a Bethlehem-based research center, 83 percent of Deir Istiya's lands were declared part of Area C, which according to the Oslo peace agreements leaves most of Deir Istiya under full Israeli military control. As a result, the lands are routinely under threat of confiscation by the Israeli army for "security" purposes and for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

ARIJ has reported that at least 12 percent of the total village's area has been confiscated for the construction of six illegal Israeli settlements, while thousands of dunams of land have been confiscated by the Israeli army for the construction of settler bypass roads, which connect Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem and Israel, and in order to "dismember Palestinian lands and enhance security control over them."

Israel's separation wall has also had a destructive impact on residents of Deir Istiya, with the wall's planned route potentially confiscating 55 percent of the village's total area, according to ARIJ.
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