Three Weeks After Attack, Israel Keeps Sanctions on Assailants' West Bank Hometown

Many of Rummanah's 4,000 residents rely on jobs in Israel to make living, but still aren't allowed to cross into it. 'No one knows how long this will go on for. It's collective punishment,' mayor says

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Israeli forces raid the West Bank village of Rummanah, which has been under lockdown since two residents carried out a terror attack in early May.
Israeli forces raid the West Bank village of Rummanah, which has been under lockdown since two residents carried out a terror attack in early May.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH - AFP
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The residents of Rummanah, the West Bank hometown of two Palestinian militants who murdered three Israelis in the city of Elad earlier this month, are still barred from going into Israel for work, in what its mayor called "collective punishment."

The sanctions on Rummanah affect most households in this town of 4,000 people, in the northern West Bank, where many rely on jobs in Israel.

Israel has imposed restrictions on close associates or relatives of terrorists in other cases, but it has not taken such steps against entire communities for such a long period of time at any point during the latest wave of violence.

The restrictions on residents have been extended every few days, subject to a situation assessment conducted by the Israeli army, a defense official said. The lockdown is aimed at preventing additional attacks, which may be inspired by the attack in Elad, a different official explained.

    On the eve of Israel's Memorial Day, May 3, Israel imposed a closure on West Bank Palestinians. After the terror attack in Elad on Independence Day, May 5, the closure was extended through May 8. The restrictions were lifted, with the exception of Rummanah, which has remained under closure for three weeks now.

    "80 percent of the men in the village work in Israel," said Mayor Hassan Sabikhat. "At this point, many already have a problem feeding their children. Every day, people come to the local council and ask for our help, but no one knows how long this will go on for. It's collective punishment." Several residents said that they have lost their jobs due to the sanctions.

    Some Rummanah residents who attempted to go to work in Israel discovered that their work permits had been revoked, though this is not part of the restrictions imposed on the community. Two weeks ago, the defense establishment released figures showing that 206 such permits had been revoked for village residents who were close to the terrorists – 19-year-old As'ad al-Rifa'i and 20-year-old Subhi Abu Shakir. In some cases, distant relatives of the two had their permits revoked.

    The security cabinet changed the policy of revoking work permits following the terrorist attack in Bnei Brak in March. The new policy widened the circle of people considered close to the terrorists and therefore eligible targets for sanctions in an attempt to deter further attacks. Before the recent decision, entry and work permits were revoked only for first degree relatives. Now, permits are being revoked for second degree relatives, such as cousins and grandparents, as well as neighbors and close friends – even if there is no evidence that they knew of the terrorists' intentions in advance or aided in it.

    The Shin Bet security service, the Israeli military and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories all declined to comment.

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