West Bank Crossing Point Closed After Terror Attempt Thwarted

Merchants in Jenin accuse Israel of collective punishment and say security necessity does not justify the closure.

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Scene of alleged attack at Jalama (Gilboa) Crossing. October 31, 2015.
Scene of alleged attack at Jalama (Gilboa) Crossing. October 31, 2015.Credit: Defense Ministry

The Gilboa crossing point close to Jenin, in the West Bank, will be closed until further notice, the Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday. The crossing point is used daily by thousands of Palestinian workers permitted to work in Israel.

The closure follows the arrest of a Palestinian man armed with a pipe bomb and a knife at the gas station opposite the crossing point on Tuesday morning. The man was detained before he could cause any injuries.

Several violent incidents have occurred in the vicinity of the crossing point in recent days. On Monday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed one Palestinian and detained another for planning to stab a soldier from the Bedouin tracker unit, according to the army.

That followed an attempt by two Palestinians to stab members of the security forces on Saturday. Both were shot and killed by guards from the ministry's crossings authority.

"In the light of the spate of terror incidents and attempted attacks on members of the security forces at the Gilboa crossing, and as ordered by security authorities, the Defense Ministry's Crossing Points Authority has closed the Gilboa crossing point until further notice," the ministry announced in a statement.

Some 3,000 Palestinian workers pass through the Gilboa point daily, while, on the weekend, thousands of Israeli cars pass through it on their way to do shopping and business in Jenin.

"Attempts to commit terror attacks lead first and foremost to damage to the Palestinian economy," the statement added.

The Jenin Chamber of Commerce estimates that an average of 1,500 vehicles enter the city daily via the Gilboa crossing point, rising to 3,000 on Saturdays and Sundays. Those numbers don't include the hundreds of trucks that transport goods between the city and the rest of the West Bank, as well as into Israel.

The crossing point also serves importers, whose products arrive in Haifa port and are then delivered to Jenin via the Gilboa crossing point.

Hisham Massad, a member of the chamber's management, told Haaretz that the decision to close the crossing point has little to do with security concerns and much to do with collective punishment and exerting pressure on the residents of Jenin.

"Punishing all the residents of the northern West Bank because of one incident or another is unjustified and has to do with the occupation and years-long dispute," Massad said.

"It's clear that these aren't organized acts but the individual decisions of young people. And it's also clear that the people manning the crossing point have the means to defend themselves. Therefore the decision to close it is structural and not intended to calm the situation."

The chamber has already appealed to the Palestinian Authority leadership and President Mahmoud Abbas, asking them to work with Israel in order to get the crossing reopened.

A drastic reduction in commercial traffic through the crossing point has been felt in Jenin over the past two weeks. Restaurants, shops and even garages that were previously full are now practically empty.

Some merchants have even come out publically against the attacks. "Every such act damages a million people," one shopkeeper said. "Such acts won't liberate Palestine or the Al-Aqsa Mosque. At the same time, we understand the frustration of the youth, who can't see any horizon or any future."

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