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A military order that took effect last week bars Palestinians with permits to enter Israel from entering via the roads that Israelis use to enter the country from the territories.

The order also forbids Israelis to transport Palestinians with valid entry permits via these roads. Instead, Palestinians must enter via one of the 11 crossing points earmarked for them. Until now, Israelis could ferry Palestinians with valid permits into Israel without going through one of these special crossings.

The Defense Ministry's Seam Line Administration has posted signs at all other access roads from the West Bank into Israel warning that non-Israelis may not use these crossings. However, the signs explicitly define "Israelis" not only as citizens or residents of the state, but also as tourists or anyone entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.

"The IDF was forced to change its deployment because of the exploitation of the crossings by terrorist elements to carry out terrorist acts inside Israel," the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman said. The spokesman also stressed that transporting Palestinians via an "Israeli-only" crossing is against the law, and will be punished accordingly.

The order was signed by Major General Yair Naveh, the commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank, on December 15. It authorized the Civil Administration to determine which crossings could be used by non-Israelis, and also to determine "the arrangements that will apply at these crossing points." In addition, it defined who is an Israeli, using the same language that is now posted on the signs at the various crossings.

On January 3, Brigadier General Kamil Abu Rokun, the head of the Civil Administration, signed the list of 11 crossings that Palestinians would be allowed to use, and stated that the order would take effect a month from that date. Eight of these 11 crossings are not on the Green Line, but either within the West Bank or inside territory annexed to Jerusalem in 1967.

The order does contain one exception: Palestinians employed by international organizations - a few hundred people - will be able to enter Israel via two routes that are otherwise reserved for Israelis. One of them is the Tunnel Road, which connects the Gush Etzion settlements to Jerusalem from the south, and the other is via the Hizma Checkpoint, which is used by the settlements north and east of Jerusalem. A Civil Administration spokesman said that this decision was made because many international organizations that employ Palestinians have their offices in East Jerusalem, and the administration did not want to make it too cumbersome for these employees to reach their jobs.

Most of these employees have "long-term" - i.e. three-month - entry permits. However, they are generally not allowed to drive within Israel.