Last update - 11:20 15/03/2010
IDF declares West Bank protest villages a 'closed military area'
By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent
Police cite military edict restricting movement in Bil'in and and Ni'lin until August.
The army has declared the West Bank villages of Bil'in and Ni'lin a 'closed military area' until August 17, it emerged Monday.
In arresting a demonstrator on Friday, police cited a military edict closing off the two villages, where weekly protests against the barrier Israel is erecting around the West Bank have often turned violent.
Bil'in residents told Haaretz that late on Friday night dozens of soldiers, some of them masked, deployed throughout the village to post notices of the order, signed on February 17 by the chief of army Central Command, Gen. Avi Mizrahi.
The ruling, which will stay in force six months, applies to land that lies between the separation fence and built up areas in Bil'in.
In Ni'lin, restrictions apparently cover the entire village, including residential areas.
For over five years the two villages have seen often violent, and twice fatal, clashes between activists and security forces during regular Friday demonstrations.
In the past year the IDF and the security service, Shin Bet, have tried a variety of tactics to end the protests, including mass arrests, night operations, restrictions on the movement of Israeli activists and the arrest of minors - prompting a military court to declare the measures inappropriate.
Yesterday a Bil'in activist, Iyad Burnat, was summoned for talks with Shin Bet officers, around an hour after sending out an emailed report of last week's protests entitled "the third intifada [uprising] is knocking at the door".
At the time of publication, the army had not yet responded to requests by Haaretz for information on the closures.