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The Israel Defense Forces closed the four manned checkpoints around Nablus yesterday and barred anyone from entering or exiting the city for most of the day, according to residents of the city and MahsomWatch activists, who patroled at the closed checkpoints of Beit Iba, Haware and Beit Furik. The fourth checkpoint, at Awarta, is meant for goods and materials.

The humanitarian office at the Civil Administration told MahsomWatch that "only the most urgent humanitarian cases" were being allowed in and out of the city.

Military sources said the siege of Nablus was tightened because of warnings about a terror attack.

The army imposed a curfew on the old city at dawn, but people entered and left through the checkpoints as usual until 10 A.M., when the checkpoints closed, and by early afternoon they were practically empty.

People heard that the way in and out of town was closed, and did not even try to go.

Buses leaving for the northern West Bank yesterday from Jerusalem were mostly heading for Tul Karm and not Nablus.

Only in late afternoon did soldiers begin allowing people into Nablus, but not out - thousands of people who work in Nablus were trapped inside the city, and not allowed to go home.

Hundreds gathered at the Beit Iba checkpoint in the hope of being allowed to leave, but only those living in the four nearest villages were allowed to do so.

In the process, a soldier confiscated the identity cards of about 10 people who asked to leave, said MahsomWatch.

Among those whose ID cards were taken was a nursing mother, and a teacher from the northern West Bank who was in the city for the day doing errands with her husband and sister.

According to Mahsom Watch, who spoke with the husband, the soldier told the woman he would return the ID card at 3 P.M., "because until 3 you are being punished."

MahsomWatch women appealed to Physicians for Human Rights while the husband contacted the Red Cross, asking for intervention with the IDF so the woman could return home to nurse her baby. Only at 4 P.M. were they allowed to leave.

The army says that soldiers are allowed to take ID cards for investigation purposes and that sometimes it can take a few hours, but not more.

According to military sources, there was no incident at the checkpoint in which an ID was taken from a woman who was told to come back later, and the soldiers said they only took the cards of people who tried to circumvent the checkpoint.