Israeli occupation forces continue closures on Nablus villages for seventh day
Palestinian protestors burn tires during clashes with Israeli security forces following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on September 9, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
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Israeli forces Saturday continued to impose strict closures on Nablus-area villages of Beita, Einabus, Urif, and Huwwara for the seventh consecutive day, claiming rocks had been thrown by Palestinians at settlers vehicles on the Huwwara main road.
Israeli forces completely sealed the village of Beita on all sides with cement blocks and dirt mounds, leaving just one road from the village open, adding at least 20 kilometers onto the travel time for Palestinians trying to reach the village.
A merchant working in the Beita village market Abu Muhammad told Ma’an that the closures have caused the prices of fruits and vegetables to skyrocket due to the increasing price of transportation, adding that some merchants have refused to deliver to the market due to the Israeli blockade.
Meanwhile, a bus driver working along the Beita-Nablus road Hashem Abu Zaitoun emphasized to Ma’an that Palestinians were suffering from the closure as residents have been forced to take dirt roads that take more than an hour-and-a-half to travel between Beita and Nablus, a trip usually taking some 15-20 minutes.
Israeli forces have claimed that the closures were implemented as a result of rocks being thrown in the area at Israeli settlers’ cards, however Zaitoun told Ma'an that witnesses and surveillance cameras had caught an Israeli settler stepping out of his car and smashing his own window several days ago near Huwwara road, reportedly in an attempt to frame Palestinians for throwing rocks.
Israeli forces have been searching for Palestinian stone-throwers for more than a month, but have yet to detain anyone despite deploying dozens of soldiers and erecting checkpoints and cameras around communities, Zaitoun said.
Several residents of Beita and nearby villages told Ma’an via telephone that the Palestinian Authority (PA) have not stepped up and taken responsibility for the closures being imposed in the villages, while it was also stressed that the restrictions on movement will severely restrict the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
A Palestinian military liaison told Ma’an that the Awarta checkpoint has been closed with an iron gate, while the Einabus-Huwwara, Beita-Awarta, Beita-Udala, Beita-Huwwara, and Beita-Zaatara roads, in addition to the main Beita road and the road connecting Madama to Einabus have all been closed by Israeli forces.
An Israeli army spokesperson said she would look into reports on the closures.
The occupied West Bank has seen an increase in arbitrary military road closures since October when a wave of unrest first erupted across the West Bank and Israel, leading to periodic blockade of Palestinian villages, towns, checkpoints, and entire districts.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently unveiled a "carrot 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."
“We will implement a differential policy in Judea and Samaria,” Lieberman said last month, using an Israeli term for the West Bank. “Its purpose is to continue to give benefits to those who desire co-existence with us and make life difficult for those who seek to harm Jews.”
"Anyone who is prepared for co-existence will prosper, while those who opt for terrorism will lose.”
During a raid into the town of Sair in the southern occupied West Bank last week, when Israeli forces reportedly threatened to detain a 10-month-old girl after breaking into and ransacking her family's home, soldiers hung a written warning on the front door that read: “In the wake of destructive attacks coming from your area against civilians, the Israeli defense forces and the Israeli security forces will operate with increased effort against terrorists and against anyone involved in such activity,” in what seemed to be among the first reported implementations of Lieberman's new policy.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers routinely throw stones at Palestinians, burn Palestinian agricultural lands, threaten, and harass Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, however they are rarely held accountable for their actions.
Palestinian stone-throwers, in stark contrast, face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, including up to 20 years in prison if charged with throwing stones at vehicles and a minimum prison sentence of three years for throwing a stone at an Israeli.
Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone-throwing every year, and Israeli rights group B'Tselem reported that from 2005 to 2010, "93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months."
Settler attacks on Palestinians seldom result in any actions being taken by Israeli authorities.
According to UN documentation, there were a total of 221 reported settler attacks on Palestinians in 2015, with 77 attacks reported since the start of 2016.
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