Israel tightens restrictions on Jenin in the West Bank, source of terrorism and clashes
Israeli authorities on Saturday imposed new restrictions on the West Bank governorate of Jenin, which has seen repeated exchanges of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen and from which the perpetrators of two recent major terror attacks originated.
The Jalameh and Rihan checkpoints in the Jenin area will be closed for the entry and exit of Israeli Arabs, according to Israel’s Military Liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT.
The crossroads are a key economic artery for the city. Arab Israelis regularly enter Jenin to shop, and the holy month of Ramadan is a crucial time for businesses to go dark.
Thirteen people have died in four attacks across Israel in recent weeks, in the bloodiest wave of terror to hit the Jewish state in years. Two of the perpetrators – Ra’ad Hazem, who killed three Israelis in Tel Aviv on Thursday, and Diaa Hamarsheh, whose shooting killed 5 in Bnei Brak – were from Jenin and its surrounding areas.
Israeli troops entering Jenin and surrounding villages have been increasingly caught up in firefights in recent months. Although the Palestinian Authority launched an operation in the governorate last year to restore order, analysts say Ramallah has increasingly less control over the region.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has indicated that Israel will continue its policy of easing some restrictions for Palestinians in the West Bank during Ramadan, after previously warning that looser policies could be “threatened by the terrorism”.
Israel has facilitated freedom of movement for Palestinians wishing to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month, including allowing children, women and some men to enter without permits.
Gantz said the military will “continue and intensify” operations “along with the continuation of civilian policy as agreed” – a reference to the easing of restrictions.
According to the Defense Ministry, Gantz will also present a NIS 360 million ($111 million) investment plan to close gaps in the West Bank security barrier to the cabinet for approval on Sunday, following the recent terror attacks. committed by Palestinians who slipped through gaps in the fence.
In addition to the closure of the crossings, Palestinian businessmen from Jenin holding elite permits issued by the Israeli military will also be banned, although ordinary day laborers will be allowed to cross the crossing as usual, COGAT said.
Palestinian residents of Jenin will also be banned from visiting first-degree relatives in Israel. Authorities allow some Palestinians to make family visits during Ramadan as a gesture to Palestinians during the holy month.
Jenin Governor Akram Rajoub called the Israeli restrictions “collective punishment”, saying it would only lead to more violence.
“When you punish all of Jenin, prevent trade and workers, you push people into a corner. Expect them to do anything,” Rajoub told The Times of Israel.
Rajoub refused to condemn the terrorists behind the recent attacks originating in the region. He also distanced himself from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who denounced the attacks.
“Palestinians are not terrorists. Palestinians want freedom from occupation,” Rajoub said. “There is no political horizon, there is no economic horizon and there is no hope of ending the occupation. So what do you expect from the Palestinian people?
Fighting in Jenin
Israeli troops entered Jenin earlier on Saturday to arrest the father of Palestinian terrorist Ra’ad Hazem, who killed three Israelis in a shootout in downtown Tel Aviv on Thursday.
But according to a military official, the troops could not find him at his home in Jenin. During the operation, Palestinian gunmen fired on soldiers, who returned fire, according to the Israeli army.
According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, one Palestinian was killed and at least 13 others were injured in the clashes. The Israeli army said there were no Israeli casualties.
The dead Palestinian was named Ahmed al-Sa’adi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman from the Jenin refugee camp. His M16 rifle was seized by Israeli troops.
Israeli troops left the refugee camp after several hours. Israeli officials said three people were arrested in the raid, including a gunman who was seriously injured in an exchange of fire and taken by military helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment.
On Friday, Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi said the army would step up its activities in the northern West Bank, following several deadly terror incidents involving Palestinians in the Jenin area.
Last week, Israeli troops tried to stop a team of terrorists near Jenin en route to an attack. Three Islamic Jihad operatives were killed in the ensuing firefight and four Israeli soldiers were injured.