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Israeli military ends blockade of occupied West Bank hub

Feb. 2, 2016 10:53 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2016 8:27 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces on Monday night ended a military blockade of the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, put in place following a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian Authority police officer on Israeli soldiers in the area.

Director of the PA’s military liaison office, Jihad al-Jayyusi, told Ma’an that all temporary checkpoints set up around Ramallah were removed and Israeli military forces had pulled out of the area around midnight.

Al-Jayyusi confirmed that all exits and entrances into Ramallah as well as main roads leading to neighboring villages were now open to traffic, adding that his office had exerted pressure on its Israeli counterpart to end the closures.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma’an that “all crossings returned to normal activity” on Monday night “following a situation assessment of the area.”

The move comes after days of debilitating closures throughout the Ramallah district, affecting tens of thousand of Palestinians.

The district was largely sealed by the Israeli military hours after PA police officer Amjad Sukkari was shot dead on Sunday when he opened fire on a military checkpoint near the Beit El settlement directly north of Ramallah, injuring three Israeli soldiers.

Witnesses told Ma'an at the time that Israeli forces had activated all military checkpoints around Ramallah -- many of which are normally unmanned -- in addition to several flying checkpoints set up throughout the area.

Locals said every car was being stopped and inspected at the checkpoints, with passengers' identity cards scrutinized before being allowed to enter or exit Ramallah, causing long waits for non-Ramallah residents attempting to leave the city as well as Ramallah residents on their way home.

Israeli forces had also continued to seal the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah, as well as several other villages closed last week after two Palestinian youths carried out a stabbing attack in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Horon, killing a woman and injuring another.

The Israeli army has sealed a number of Palestinian towns or villages since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October, despite condemnation by the international community and Palestinian leadership that such closures constitute collective punishment.
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