With Israeli and Palestinian Authority forces swamping the area around Hebron in search of the kidnappers of three Israeli boys, the United States announced Monday that travel in southern parts of the West Bank by U.S. officials has been suspended.
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The order applies to the "West Bank south of the Beit Jala checkpoint on Route 60, as well as to Herodian."
The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem also warned American citizens to steer clear of protests, even apparently peaceful ones. "Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," the security message read. "U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations, if possible, and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. As always, U.S. citizens should remain aware of their surroundings and monitor the press."
One of the three boys kidnapped last Thursday night, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, is a U.S. citizen, whose family lived in Brooklyn.
150 Palestinians arrested
The security message comes as Israel Defense Forces have arrested some 150 Palestinians since the kidnapping, killing one and getting into clashes with many. This is what happened on Sunday throughout the day in villages in the Hebron area, and especially in Tapuah, Yatta and Dura. Residents of these areas said forces entered the villages from the early morning and conducted widespread searches and arrested a large number of people. Many of those arrested were released after being questioned locally, and some were transferred to IDF and Shin Bet security service installations for further questioning.
Many roads were blocked off in certain areas using concrete blocks, including roads leading to Hebron from nearby villages, according to Palestinian witnesses. Some residents said these actions have almost completely halted commerce in one of the West Bank’s major commercial centers.
In Tapuah, young men threw rocks at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and other riot control methods. Residents complained that soldiers took up positions on the roofs of a number of houses, or those that look out over a wide area.
The soldiers were conducting house-by-house searches, making arrests and using tear gas, said one resident. In Halhul, there were clashes and one resident was injured.
The arrests were part of a broader operation throughout the entire West Bank.