The mayor of Yatta and a human rights group have petitioned the High Court of Justice in order to have the army lift the closure of the West Bank city.
The closure was imposed on June 9 after it was found that the perpetrators of the terror attack on the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv had come from Yatta. With a population of 70,000, Yatta is the second-largest town in the Hebron area and the third largest in the West Bank.
The army initially completely blocked off all 12 entrances and exits from the town. A few days later, most of the roadblocks were lifted, but on July 2 the closure was reinstated. All entry and exit from the town, by vehicle or on foot, is prohibited according to the petition.
The petition by Mayor Musa Muhamara and Hamoked – Center for the Rights of the Individual states that even humanitarian cases encounter problems. The petitioners say they have received a number of reports of ambulances transporting patients from Yatta’s hospital to the state hospital in Hebron being detained for hours before being allowed to proceed.
The petition, submitted by attorney Yadin Elam, states that the closure has gravely damaged the fabric both of the residents’ lives and 30,000 more people living in the vicinity of Yatta.
“The closure and severe restrictions of movement have destructive implications for the population of Yatta and its environs and in many cases do not permit them to go to work outside the city. The same is true for people living outside Yatta whose livelihood is in Yatta,” the petition stated.
The petition noted that agricultural-produce merchants are most severely affected. Butchers cannot deliver their meat, and agricultural produce not allowed into Yatta must be destroyed. Customers cannot reach stores and farmers cannot reach their fields, with crops being severely damaged, the petition stated. Moreover, shepherds from Yatta cannot reach their flocks outside the city to feed them or seek veterinary treatment, which harms both the animals as well as the shepherds’ livelihoods.
According to the petition, Muhamara and Hamoked approached the army on a number of occasions to request that the closure and collective punishment be lifted. In one case, the army’s Central Command responded that the closure had been imposed to respond to a “military-security need” and that it was “part of the effort to prevent further attackers from leaving the area.”
The restrictions on movement, the response said, “have been imposed for a specific time period, and its purpose is to lighten traffic in the area and prevent vehicular traffic at the entrances and exits of the community. It should be stressed that throughout the days the closure has been in place, no restrictions were imposed on pedestrian traffic and the security forces are directed to respond appropriately to all humanitarian needs,” the Central Command said.
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