The IDF will likely limit the number of Israeli entry permits given to Palestinians during the month of Ramadan, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told journalists on Friday.
“Ramadan 2014 will not be like Ramadans in previous years,” said Major General Yoav Mordechai, referring to the holy Muslim month which begins June 28. “The widespread festivities which took place [previously] will not happen.”
Israeli policy in previous years was to allow the maximum number of Palestinian civilians to enter Israel during Ramadan. Last year, approximately 180,000 Palestinians were given special permits to enter the country, and used the permits to vacation on Tel Aviv’s beaches and pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
But this year, the IDF will probably drastically cut the number of permits, especially to residents of the Hebron area, which Israel believes to be the home of the kidnappers of three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, who went missing June 12 in Gush Etzion.
“We may distribute more [permits] to residents of some areas [in the West Bank] and less to others,” Mordechai said.
Hebron, the largest West Bank province with a population of up to 700,000, is currently under an IDF-imposed “flexible siege.” Some 20,000 day laborers and 3,000-4,000 merchants have been barred from entering Israel. Hebronites aged 20-50 are prevented from leaving the West Bank to Jordan through the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge.
The Israeli army continued its crackdown on Hamas’s civilian infrastructure in the West Bank on Friday. So far, 330 Palestinians have been arrested, including 11 Hamas parliament members, and 31 institutions have been targeted, with the army confiscating tens of thousands of shekels in raids. The IDF has refrained from targeting certain institutions known to be associated with Hamas, primarily schools and orphanages, for fear of angering Palestinian civil society.
According to Mordechai, who heads the IDF branch tasked with Palestinian civil affairs, a COGAT officer has been attached to every battalion operating in the West Bank in order to help units differentiate between Palestinian civilians and Hamas targets — in a bid to minimize the hardship experienced by Palestinian society as a result of the operation.
“It would be wrong to increase friction, since that would arouse the street,” Mordechai said. “We are trying to differentiate the civilian population [from Hamas] as much as possible.”