Israeli Army Cordons Off West Bank Village After Clash With Palestinians

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Palestinian demonstrators hurling rocks during clashes with Israeli border guards in the village of Araka, West of Jenin, February 15, 2016.
Palestinian demonstrators hurling rocks during clashes with Israeli border guards in the village of Araka, West of Jenin, February 15, 2016.Credit: AFP

The Israel Defense Forces has clamped down on the West Bank village of Araka, north of Jenin, after an exchange of fire on Sunday between army reservists and Palestinians. Two Palestinian youths, which the army says were armed, were killed in the exchange.

According to army orders, military forces blocked all entrances to the village, save for one, through which residents may enter or exit the village after passing through a security check. However, the head of the Araka municipal council, Raed Abu Yamen, told Haaretz that the army isn’t allowing people to enter or leave the village and is in effect cordoning if off. The travel restrictions that were imposed on Monday led to students not leaving for schools and universities outside of Araka, and people couldn’t reach their workplaces outside the village.

According to Abu Yamen, the main entrance to the village, located on its eastern side, was completely blocked by the military on Sunday night, as well as dirt routes surrounding it. "This morning no one managed to leave," he said. "There were a few people outside the village who returned in the morning through the fields, but you can say explicitly that we’re under siege." He added that clashes had been taking place between residents and army forces since the morning. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 35 youths were wounded, mainly from smoke inhalation.

Israeli border guards inspecting a car during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in the village of Araka, West of Jenin, February 15, 2016.Credit: AFP

An appeal by human rights group Hamoked - Center for the Defense of the Individual to IDF Central Command Chief Maj. Gen. Roni Numa that was filed on Monday said that the cordoning off of the village led to its shutting down. It gave as an example that a resident requiring dialysis was unable to leave the village. The appeal, written by attorney Yadin Elam, said that the restrictions are "collective punitive sanctions and not a preventative security element." The group demanded that the restrictions be removed, saying that it would turn to court otherwise.

On Sunday, a reserves force arrived at the West Bank separation barrier near Araka after a lookout identified stone-throwing in the area. According to the army's report, the reserve soldiers were fired at when they arrived on the scene. The soldiers returned fire, killing the two teens. Soldiers reported that one of the Palestinians was armed with a makeshift weapon and another was carrying a knife. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the casualties as Nihad Wakid and Fuad Wakid, both 15 and residents of Araka.

Meanwhile, the army lifted the military cordon on the village of Nahalin, which it imposed a week ago after a stabbing attack adjacent to the settlement of Neve Daniel in which a resident of Rosh Tzurim was moderately wounded. The assailant was seen fleeing to the village, located near Bethlehem. The army declared the area a closed military zone and prevented most of its residents from leaving the village until on Monday it was decided to lift the blockade.

Separately, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Monday morning that 26 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with IDF soldiers that carried out an arrest operation in the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. According to the army, one of the soldiers was lightly wounded by a stone during the clashes, when Palestinians shot at the force, threw explosive devices and threw stones.

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