IDF Curfew Forces West Bank Village Residents to Stay Indoors Around the Clock

Curfew comes day after IDF blockades Na'alin in 'open ended' effort to curb anti-separation fence protests.

Shots sounded from the West Bank village of Na'alin on Sunday as locals marched in defiance of a daylight curfew imposed by the Israel Defense Forces troops who sealed off the area on Saturday.

One resident said up to 50 people were hurt by tear gas and rubber bullets. The IDF said a soldier was wounded and declined to comment on any casualties among civilians on a third day of clashes and a clampdown that has kept journalists out.

Troops again stopped reporters trying to enter the town of 5,000, 20 km (12 miles) east of Tel Aviv, which has been a focus for protests against separation fence Israel is building through the West Bank in what it says is a necessary security measure.

A Reuters correspondent on a hill overlooking Na'alin saw at least a dozen people walking and shouting through the village. He also heard several shots. Local people said by telephone they had been prevented from leaving the town since Friday.

An IDF spokesman said the indefinite daylight curfew was imposed on townspeople on Sunday, forcing them to stay indoors around the clock, "in light of recent violent incidents". He said 8 Israeli security personnel and 2 workers building the separation barrier were hurt in protests over the past month.

The West Bank barrier, a network of razor-wire fences and concrete barricades, is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, Israel says. But it also loops around Jewish settlement blocs, cutting off West Bank villages from swathes of farmland.

Four years ago this week, the World Court in the Hague ruled building the 720 km. (430 mile) barrier on occupied land was illegal. The United Nations says Israel has ignored that ruling.

On Saturday, the IDF blockaded the Palestinian village in what the army called an open-ended effort to curb protests against the separation fence.

Troops encircled Na'alin, near the Palestinian hub city of Ramallah, under orders to vet those entering or leaving the village and turn back would-be demonstrators.

"These protests have been getting increasingly violent, and they must be stopped," an IDF spokeswoman said.

On Friday, she said, hundreds of demonstrators threw rocks and rolled burning tires toward Israeli border policemen guarding the fence, wounding one person and damaging a jeep.

Na'alin residents said the closure was imposed on Friday, which also saw a march against the barrier during which around 20 protesters were hurt by rubber bullets fired by Israeli security forces. Four protesters from an Israeli solidarity group were arrested, an organizer of the demonstration said.

Casualties and other patients were prevented from leaving the village for treatment, said Salah al-Khawaja, spokesman for the Ni'lin Committee for Resisting the Wall.

The military spokeswoman said security forces were attacked by hundreds of Palestinians who pelted them with rocks and rolled burning tyres at them, injuring a border policeman. She denied that the closure was affecting the movement of patients.

The IDF also relayed that over the last month there have been many other incidents of stone-throwing and tire-burning in a bid to sabotage work on the fence near the village.

After the blockade was declared, some 200 demonstrators travelled to Na'alin. The army said in response to this that the protestors were forcing it to violate the Sabbath in order to maintain order.

For their part, the protestors argued that their rallies are legitimate protests, which are held after the expropriation of Na'alin residents' land to benefit the nearby settlement of Hashmonaim and work on the fence.

Israel says the network of fences and concrete barricades is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, but the barrier also loops around settlement blocs, cutting off some West Bank villages from swathes of farmland.

Construction sites are flashpoints for confrontations between Israeli security forces and local Palestinians, who are often supported by left-wing protestors from Israel and abroad.

The army spokeswoman said the blockade was for an indefinite period. Israel Radio said it would be in place until Monday and would then be reviewed by the military top brass.