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Israel tightens restrictions on West Bank’s Jenin, source of terrorism and clashes

But defense minister indicates more lenient Ramadan policies toward Palestinians will continue elsewhere; says he’ll expedite plan to fix gaps in security barrier

A picture shows the Israeli Jalameh checkpoint in the northern West Bank, on April 8, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
A picture shows the Israeli Jalameh checkpoint in the northern West Bank, on April 8, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Israeli authorities imposed new restrictions Saturday on the West Bank governorate of Jenin, which has seen repeated firefights between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen and from which the perpetrators of two recent major terror attacks hailed.

The Jalameh and Rihan checkpoints in the Jenin area will be closed for Arab Israelis to enter and exit, according to Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, which is widely known by its acronym COGAT.

The crossings are a key economic artery for the city. Arab Israelis regularly enter to shop in Jenin, and the Ramadan holy month is a crucial time for businesses to get in the black.

Thirteen people have died in four attacks across Israel in recent weeks, in the bloodiest terror wave to hit the Jewish state in years. Two of the perpetrators — Ra’ad Hazem, who killed three Israelis in Tel Aviv on Thursday, and Diaa Hamarsheh, whose shooting spree left 5 dead in Bnei Brak — hailed from Jenin and its environs.

Israeli troops entering Jenin and the surrounding villages have increasingly been caught in gunfights in recent months. Although the Palestinian Authority launched an operation in the governorate last year to restore order, analysts say Ramallah increasingly holds little sway in the area.

At the same time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated Israel would continue its policy of loosening some restrictions for West Bank Palestinians during Ramadan, after previously warning the more relaxed policies could be “threatened by terrorism.”

Israel has eased freedom of movement for Palestinians who wish to attend Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month, including allowing kids, women, and some men entry without permits.

Gantz said the army “will continue and intensify” operations “alongside the continuation of civil policy as was agreed” — a reference to the eased restrictions.

According to the Defense Ministry, Gantz will also bring a plan to invest NIS 360 million ($111 million) to plug gaps the West Bank security barrier to the cabinet for approval on Sunday, after recent terror attacks committed by Palestinians who snuck through gaps in the fence.

Israeli security forces keep watch as Palestinians wait to have their IDs checked to reach the city of Jerusalem to attend Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on April 8, 2022, at a checkpoint in Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

In addition to the crossings being closed, Palestinian businessmen from Jenin holding elite permits issued by the Israeli army will also be banned, although ordinary day laborers will be permitted through the crossing as usual, COGAT said.

Jenin’s Palestinians residents will also be banned from visiting first-degree relatives in Israel. Authorities permit some Palestinians to conduct family visits during Ramadan as a gesture to Palestinians during the holy month.

Jenin governor Akram Rajoub slammed the Israeli restrictions as “collective punishment,” saying it would only lead to more violence.

“When you punish all of Jenin, prevent commerce and workers, you push people into a corner. Expect them to do anything,” Rajoub told The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz gives a press conference at IDF Central Command headquarters, on March 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Rajoub declined to condemn the terrorists behind recent attacks who hailed from the area. He also distanced himself from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has denounced the attacks.

“Palestinians are not terrorists. Palestinians want to free themselves from occupation,” Rajoub said. “There’s no political horizon, there’s no economic horizon, and there’s no hope to end the occupation. So what do you expect from the Palestinian people?”

Fighting in Jenin

Israeli troops entered Jenin earlier on Saturday to arrest the father of Palestinian terrorist Ra’ad Hazem, who killed three Israelis in a shooting spree in downtown Tel Aviv on Thursday.

But according to a military official, troops were unable to find him at his Jenin home. During operation, Palestinian gunmen shot at troops, who returned fire, according to the Israeli army.

According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, one Palestinian was killed and at least 13 others were wounded in the clashes. The Israeli army said there were no Israeli casualties.

Palestinians throw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military vehicle in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank during a raid on a terrorist’s home, on April 9, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The dead Palestinian was named as Ahmed al-Sa’adi, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunman from the Jenin refugee camp. His M16 rifle was seized by Israeli troops.

Israeli troops left the refugee camp after several hours. Israeli officials said three people were arrested in the raid, including a gunman who was seriously wounded in a firefight and taken by military helicopter to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment.

On Friday, Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi said the military will ramp up activities in the northern West Bank, following several deadly terror incidents involving Palestinians from the Jenin region.

Last week, Israeli troops attempted to arrest a team of terrorists near Jenin on its way to an attack. Three Islamic Jihad members were killed in the ensuing firefight and four Israeli soldiers were injured.

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