ISRAELI authorities implemented a large-scale closure on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday, adding to a long line of punitive measures that have been carried out since last Wednesday’s deadly attack in Tel Aviv.
An Israeli army spokesperson said that all passages to the West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip would be sealed until Monday at midnight after an army ‘situation assessment’, with the exception of humanitarian and medical cases.
However, the spokesperson said Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem would be allowed passage for the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The sealing of the West Bank and Gaza is one of several punitive orders which have been implemented by the Israeli government following an attack in Tel Aviv which left four Israelis killed and another six wounded.
The measure came just one day after Israel’s decision to freeze more than 83,000 permits allowing Palestinians to enter Israel and East Jerusalem during Ramadan, including freezing the work permits of 204 of the suspected attackers’ relatives who work in Israel.
Israeli authorities additionally froze all coordination with the besieged Gaza Strip for Ramadan, cancelling weekly visitations by elderly Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, implemented as part of a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged Palestinian territory.
Newly-appointed Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also issued an order last Thursday to suspend the return of all Palestinian bodies killed during suspected attacks on Israelis.
Meanwhile, a large-scale raid was carried out in the alleged attackers’ hometown of Yatta in the West Bank district of Hebron in the early morning hours last Thursday, as Israeli forces detained an unspecified number of people.
The town has been completely sealed by Israeli forces, with no Palestinians allowed to leave except for humanitarian or medical cases. Israeli forces deployed two additional Israeli army battalions to the West Bank last Thursday, consisting of hundreds of Israeli soldiers.
More than 200 Palestinians and close to 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest in October in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, which has been mainly characterised by small-scale Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlers and military targets.
Israeli forces detained at least 12 Palestinians and carried out large-scale predawn detention raids across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, according to Israeli and Palestinian security sources.
In the central West Bank district of Bethlehem, Israeli forces raided the Aida refugee camp and searched the home of Palestinian legislative council member, Mahmoud al-Khatib, before detaining his son Daoud, Palestinian security sources. Nader al-Basha and Muhammad Sbeih from the village of Hizma to the east of Jerusalem city in the central West Bank were detained.
Towards the north, Israeli forces detained Ahmad Kamal Salem Daraghmeh, 22, in the city of Tubas after raiding and searching his home. An Israeli army spokesperson reported an additional detention in Tubas, but no details were given. In Hebron city in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces detained Ramadan al-Qawasmi after raiding his home, Palestinian sources said. Israeli sources reported one additional detention in Hebron city, with another being detained outside of the city.
An Israeli army spokesperson reported additional detentions in the West Bank, with one in the town of Abu Dis in the Jerusalem governate in the central West Bank, one in the West Bank district of Qalqilya, and two in the district of Ramallah.
Palestinian security forces also reported that Israeli forces searched the home of legislative council member Khalil al-Rabies while raiding the town of Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, adding that an additional raid was carried out on the homes of the families of the two alleged attackers in Wednesday’s deadly shooting in Tel Aviv.
Israeli forces reportedly took measurements of the homes and searched both the houses. Palestinian security officials said that Israeli forces also carried out raids in the villages of al-Shuyoukh and Beit Awwa in the southern part of Hebron city, the towns of Sinjil and Budrus in the district of Ramallah, the neighbourhood of Kafr Saba in Qalqiliya, the town of Tammun in the northern Tubas governorate, the towns of al-Eizariya and Abu Dis in the Jerusalem governorate, and in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem.
Clashes erupted in several areas following the raids, as Israeli forces opened live fire on Palestinian communities, including shooting rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas bombs. According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of May. The organisation estimates that 40 per cent of Palestinian men and boys have been detained by Israel at some point in their lives.
There has been a total of 167 Israeli military detention raids carried out on Palestinian communities in the last two weeks, according to UN documentation. An Israeli settler ran over a flock of sheep belonging to a Palestinian shepherd near the al-Zubeidat village in the occupied West Bank district of Jericho on Friday, causing the death of 25 of the sheep, according to Palestinian officials.
Palestinian security officials said that an Israeli settler was driving at a high speed and ran over the flock of sheep while they were crossing the road. The Palestinian shepherd requested that Israeli authorities penalise the Israeli settler and provide compensation for the losses.
Meanwhile, new talks are set to be held between Fatah and Hamas in the Emirati city of Doha this week, according to a statement released last Thursday by National Relations Commissioner for Fatah’s Central Committee, Azzam al-Ahmad.
Al-Ahmad said in a press statement that the focus of the talks would be to continue discussions on ways to implement the reconciliation agreement between the two major Palestinian parties, adding that the implementation would require honest political intentions to end the division between the political factions.
The national relations commissioner expressed concern over statements made by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzuq saying the upcoming discussions would focus on the political agenda of the government, which al-Ahmad said had already been decided on.
Al-Ahmad added that statements by the Hamas leader were not encouraging and highlighted his fears that the comments could hinder the reconciliation talks. In March, the two political parties also held reconciliation talks in Doha, with Fatah and Hamas delegations discussing implementations of a viable reconciliation agreement.
The meeting is the latest in a series of attempts to reconcile the two movements since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the besieged Gaza Strip. Both sides have blamed each other for failing to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding of long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.
• Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian lands in eastern Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, witnesses said. Israeli forces deployed east of Shuhada Khuzaa School in Khan Yunis opened fire at Palestinian agricultural lands, witnesses said. No injuries were reported.
On a near daily basis, the Israeli army fires ‘warning shots’ at Palestinian fisherman, farmers, and shepherds entering the Israeli-enforced ‘buffer zone’, a unilaterally declared area implemented after Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip a decade ago. Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire often goes unreported.