Palestinian Laborers Banned From Working on West Bank Settlements

Temporary ban, which follows two stabbing attacks, to be reviewed daily; Israeli army denies 'collective punishment,' saying move is necessary to maintain order in settlements.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Construction work in Elazar, a settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc, in July 2010.
Construction work in Elazar, a settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc, in July 2010.Credit: AP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Palestinian laborers have temporarily been banned from working on settlements in the West Bank. The order, which commences Tuesday, comes after two stabbing attacks on Israelis that left a 39-year-old mother of six dead and a pregnant woman moderately wounded.

The commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Lior Carmeli, announced the decision on Monday. The order doesn’t apply to those working in industrial zones in the West Bank. According to an army source, the decision will be reviewed on a daily basis.

Stabbing attack victim being taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, January 18, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

In the wake of a stabbing attack in the settlement of Tekoa, the commander of the Etzion Brigade, Col. Roman Gofman, decided to remove Palestinian workers from the area – both in the settlements and the industrial zones. The IDF explained that after a second attack in 24 hours within the settlement area, they were afraid that more Palestinians would try to mimic the behavior of the attackers in Tekoa and Otniel.

The IDF said this was not a “collective punishment” against the workers, but that it was necessary in order to maintain order and to better supervise the workers inside the settlements.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Monday it was important that Palestinians be allowed to continue working and to make a living.

According to army statistics, some 120,000 Palestinians are employed by Israelis, legally or illegally, within the West Bank or in Israel proper.

The IDF and Shin Bet security service are continuing to investigate Sunday’s attack in Otniel, where Dafna Meir, a mother of six, was stabbed to death in her home.

According to a senior IDF officer, the identity of the attacker is unknown and there is no specific intelligence that it was a Palestinian who worked inside the settlement. However, because there are no clear signs suggesting the route the attacker took into the settlement, one theory under investigation is that he was a worker.

After Sunday’s attack, the IDF placed inspection points at the entrance and exit to the village of Khirbet Karameh, where the attacker is suspected of fleeing to.

The IDF officer added that the attack in Otniel was very cruel, and expressed concern that other attackers will want to imitate the terrorist and act within the settlements themselves.

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