The Israel Defense Forces blocked the main entrance to the West Bank village of Aaboud, northwest of Ramallah, for two weeks. Despite testimony and a probe by Haaretz, the army spokesperson denies the entrance was blocked for so long. On Wednesday night, about eight hours after a Haaretz submitted a query on the matter, soldiers unlocked the iron gate to the village.
Like most entrances to villages and towns in the West Bank, the IDF has installed an iron gate at the entrance to Aaboud, which can be blocked to Palestinian vehicles at any time, in keeping with a local or regional decision by the army. At the entrance to the village stand a military fortification which is continuously manned. Outside the military position a Hebrew banner reads: “The mission – victory in every encounter with the enemy.”
Village council head Elias Azer informed Haaretz that the gate had been locked on the night of June 8. According to Azer, there was no notice ahead of the closure, and the requests he made to the Palestinian liaison office as well as to a Civil Administration officer that the gate be opened were to no avail. Azer said that he was ashamed to go back to the Palestinian liaison office because their answer had been that: “No one [on the Israeli side] was answering them.” He was, however, told that the gate had been locked in response to stone throwing. “Why take revenge on a whole village? Israel goes to Damascus and bombs there, and it can’t find out who threw a stone?” he asked.
On Wednesday, after two weeks during which the road had been blocked, Azer heard from the Red Cross that the gate would remain locked for much longer.
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Aaboud is home to some 2,500 residents, both Christians and Muslims. Most of the adults work in the public and private sector in Ramallah and in Israel. For two weeks they have been forced to take a detour through the villages of Beit Rima and Nebi Salah to get to work, medical treatments, school and venues were matriculation exams were being held. The two other roads to the village, which lead west, had already been blocked in the early 2000s for the benefit of the settlements of Bet Aryeh and Ofarim, which stand on lands belonging to Aaboud.
Meanwhile, grocery stores in Aaboud were running low on some products because suppliers had reduced their trips to the village. Businesses also suffered, including a vehicle paint shop and a liquor store, most of whose customers come from outside the village. Azer said that early last week an ambulance had been called to the village, and when the soldiers did not open the gate, the ambulance had to take a long detour in order to arrive at its destination.
In another instance last Wednesday, the sons of a woman identified as N.B., who is a dialysis patient and receives treatment in Ramallah three times a week, tried their luck and came to the main exit. They found the gate locked, and were ignored by the soldiers, despite waiting for 15 minutes.
On Thursday afternoon (after the gate had been opened), the army spokesperson told Haaretz: “Recently there has been a rise in [unorganized] terror near the village of Aaboud, situated in the [area controlled by] the Ephraim Regional Brigade. Thus, among other things, explosive devices have been thrown and violent disturbances have taken place against IDF forces. As part of the response, the IDF conducts various operations, including security checks and varying restrictions of traffic in the area, in keeping with the ongoing security assessment. The claim that the entrance to the village has been blocked for two weeks is not correct.”