The Israel Defense Forces has closed off the village of Nahalin near Bethlehem and has blocked most of the residents from leaving for six days, ever since a man was stabbed and wounded near the settlement of Neveh Daniel and the attacker apparently fled to the village.
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The southern entrance to Nahalin, which leads to the village of Jaba, has been blocked with a metal gate, while at the northwestern entrance, near the village of Husan, a military force has been stationed that blocks cars and pedestrians from entering or leaving, except for those who need medical treatment and other exceptions. The westward path to the village’s fields and vineyards has also been blocked.
One of the soldiers stationed Sunday afternoon at the northern entrance told Haaretz that the stabber had fled into the town, and until he is found there is no choice but to maintain the closure. Village council head Ibrahim Shakhrna said that as of Sunday the army had only searched some 200 of the village’s 1,400 homes. About 10,500 people live in Nahalin.
Villagers said that during the night military jeeps and soldiers on foot patrol the village, with the soldiers periodically throwing gas grenades. They added that the soldiers are polite during their searches.
The closure has affected students and school pupils, Palestinian Authority workers and others who work outside the village, as wells as laborers who work in the settlements and in Israel proper. Shakharna said last Thursday he had heard media reports that the 1,500 Nahalin residents who work in the settlements would no longer be permitted to do so. Doctors and nurses who live elsewhere but work in the village clinic have also not been permitted to enter.
On Sunday, students were ostensibly allowed to leave the village for the first time, but a conversation with young people standing near the northern entrance revealed that many of them, particularly the men, were not permitted to leave during the morning, and that soldiers threw gas grenades to disperse them.
In principle suppliers are allowed to bring food into the village, but they prefer making these deliveries by the “back to back” method, passing goods from their vehicles to vehicles within Nahalin so as not to possibly get stuck in the village. Sunday a food supplier was allowed to enter Nahalin but had to wait two hours before he was allowed to leave.
The soldiers allowed fuel suppliers to pass over gallons of gasoline, since Nahalin doesn’t have its own gas station. Medical workers who work outside the village were also allowed to leave for work yesterday for the first time.
According to the soldier, orders on who is permitted to enter or leave change all the time, sometimes every two hours. On Sunday, anyone who wasn’t a Nahalin resident and was either over 40 or under 12 could enter and leave. Everyone else was told by soldiers that “you can enter, but you won’t be able to leave.”
Some residents doubt that the stabber sought refuge in Nahalin, while some others believe the stabbing was fabricated to give the army an excuse for continuing to block a major road out of the village that runs past Neveh Daniel.
The IDF spokesman said the closure was not a punitive measure, but was part of an activity aimed at assuring the security of area residents.