Last update - 10:59 03/06/2009
IDF declares Nablus area a closed military zone to keep out left-wing activists
By Haaretz Service
Tags: Checkpoints, West Bank, IDF
The Israel Defense Forces has declared the area around the West Bank city of Nablus a closed military zone, in order to prevent left-wing activists from entering the area, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
According to Army Radio, Head of the Central Command General Gadi Shamni
issued the closure after receiving numerous complaints from soldiers who said the activists were interfering with their security duties at area checkpoints.
The IDF said singled-out activists from "Machsom Watch" (checkpoint watch) as being the subject of the most complaints.
The IDF issued a statement Wednesday saying that the closure applies to all Israelis, regardless of ideology.
The Human Rights Organization "Yesh Din" on Wednesday slammed the decision to declare the area a closed military zone, saying only in totalitarian countries are humanitarian organizations banned from areas where there is friction between the military and the civilian population.
"We won't be surprised if the next step is to ban internet sites, like was done in China," Yesh Din said Wednesday, adding that the decision was made in order to "cover-up criminal actions carried out at the checkpoints."
On Tuesday, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded after he was stabbed in the back by a Palestinian next to the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus.
Two weeks ago, IDF troops caught a member of "Machsom Watch" climbing on the security fence to receive a package from a Palestinian. When the woman saw the soldiers she reportedly threw the package back over the fence and fled the scene.
On Wednesday, the IDF spokesperson's office announced that the Atzira A-Shamalia checkpoint near Nablus will begin operating 24 hours a day, to ease Palestinian movement in the area.
The statement also announced the removal of the Rimonim roadblock east of Ramallah and the Bir Zeit roadblock, north of the West Bank city.
According to the statement, the steps were taken in order "to widen the free movement of the Palestinian population and are in addition to the 145 roadblocks which were removed in the past year."
(note about the end of the article: I do not know where they took that figure of "145" roadblocks removed, but according to OCHA there are still more than 700 obstacles to freedom of movement for the Palestinians inside the West Bank. the checkpoints are still omnipresent)