Israel Tightens Security Near Hebron, West Bank

Israeli forces detained at least six Palestinians in raids in West Bank on Wednesday night, as Palestinian Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Local Palestinian sources said that Israeli forces detained a wounded Palestinian after raiding his house in the Qalandiya refugee camp in the central occupied West Bank.

The youth, identified as 21-year-old Salah Lutfi Hamad, was one of at least four Palestinians injured on Monday when Israeli forces raided Qalandiya in order to demolish the homes of two slain Palestinians who allegedly carried out stabbing attacks last year.

On the other hand, Israel has ramped up security in the occupied West Bank since a Palestinian killed a 13-year-old Jewish girl in a settlement last week, deploying more troops and setting up checkpoints near the city of Hebron, according to Reuters

Attention is on Bani Na’im, a town to the east where the girl’s killer, a 19-year-old who stabbed her as she slept, came from. He was shot dead.

But a day after her death, a Jewish father driving nearby with his daughters was shot and killed. His attacker, who remains at large, is also suspected of coming from Bani Na’im.

“Collective punishment is not something that’s immoral or illegal,” says Uri Karzen, the director of the Jewish community in Hebron, where around 1,000 settlers, protected by Israeli troops, live among around 230,000 Palestinians. “It has to be done when you’re dealing with a real threat to life.”

At the entrance to Bani Na’im, an Israeli soldier kicks open the legs of a Palestinian man and pats him down against the side of an armored vehicle. Another soldier signals to traffic to turn around and leave.

Residents now have to take a circuitous route to get to Hebron, dropping off their vehicles at checkpoints and walking, unless they have a four-by-four.

“These closures affect everyone,” said Raad Nassar, 49, stopped at a checkpoint as he carried home a TV, an Eid gift from his employer. “This is not the way to peace.”

Since last October, there has been a surge in Palestinian attacks on Israelis, prompting fears of a new uprising.

According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of May. The NGO estimates that 40 percent of Palestinian men have been held in Israeli custody at one point in their lives.

The Israeli army has occupied the West Bank for nearly 50 years. At times it has pushed back against settler demands for tougher measures. But some government ministers, especially those with settler supporters, want it to go further.

“We need to understand that we are in an all-out war,” Transport Minister Israel Katz told the Haaretz newspaper.
“Who can think of peace in these conditions,” said Ali al-Azzi, 23, interrupted as he spoke by a bulldozer dumping dirt where he was standing, forcing him out of the way.

In the heart of Hebron, where a hard-core of settlers has lived since Israel seized the West Bank in 1967, the concern is that the army’s clampdown will only be temporary.