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Israel tightens restrictions on West Bank’s Jenin, source of terrorism and clashes
Israeli authorities imposed fresh restrictions Saturday on the West Bank city of Jenin, which has been the source of several recent terror attacks and seen repeated firefights between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.
At the same time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated that Israel will continue its policy of easing restrictions for most Palestinians during Ramadan, despite the recent string of terror attacks, the most recent of which claimed the lives of three civilians in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Following a situational assessment, Gantz said the army “will continue and intensify” operations, “alongside the continuation of civil policy as was agreed” — a reference to eased restrictions.
Israel has implemented measures aimed at easing freedom of movement for Palestinians who wish to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy Muslim month, including allowing kids, women, and some men entry without permits.
Gantz had previously warned that such gestures are “threatened by terrorism.” And indeed Israel took a harsher stance toward Jenin on Saturday.
The Jalameh and Rihan checkpoints in the Jenin area will be closed for Arab Israelis to enter and exit, according to Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, which is widely known by its acronym COGAT.
The crossings are a key economic artery for the city. Arab Israelis regularly enter to shop in Jenin, and the Ramadan holy month is a crucial time for businesses to get in the black.
Palestinian businessmen holding elite permits issued by the Israeli army will also be banned, although ordinary day laborers will be permitted through the crossing as usual, COGAT said.
Jenin’s Palestinians residents will also be banned from visiting first-degree relatives in Israel. Authorities permit some Palestinians to conduct family visits during Ramadan as a gesture to Palestinians during the holy month.
Gantz’s office also said he will bring a plan to invest NIS 360 million ($111 million) to strengthen the West Bank security barrier for governmental approval on Sunday, after several recent terror attacks were committed by Palestinians who snuck through gaps in the fence.
His office said the investment will allow work to begin this year, “according to operational priorities.”
“This is an early start of work on the project, in light of the urgent operational need. The works will continue in the coming years,” his office said.
The defense minister hailed the morning’s military raid in Jenin, as forces operated at the home of the terrorist who carried out the deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv.
Gantz “expressed appreciation to the forces operating over the weekend, and in particular for the operational activities carried out this morning in Jenin,” his office said.
He added that “defensive and offensive” military operations will “continue and intensify everywhere.”
During the Jenin operation, the military said Palestinian gunmen opened fire toward troops, who returned fire.
In footage posted online, heavy gunfire was heard in the area. The IDF said there were no Israeli casualties.
According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, one Palestinian was killed and at least 13 others were wounded in the clashes.
The dead Palestinian was named as Ahmed as-Saadi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman from the Jenin refugee camp. His M16 rifle was seized by IDF troops.
After several hours, Israeli troops left the Jenin refugee camp. Security forces said three people were arrested in the raid, including a gunman who was seriously wounded in a firefight and taken by military helicopter to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment.
According to reports, the military sought to arrest the father of Ra’ad Hazem, the terrorist who killed three people when he opened fire at a Tel Aviv bar on Thursday evening, but he was not home at the time of the operation.
On Friday, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said the military will ramp up activities in the northern West Bank, following several deadly terror incidents involving Palestinians from the Jenin region and as officials reportedly believe the Palestinian Authority is losing control of the area.
Last week, Israeli troops attempted to arrest a team of terrorists near Jenin on its way to an attack. Three Islamic Jihad members were killed in the ensuing firefight and four Israeli soldiers were injured.