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‘Relative quiet’ prompts Israel to end months of closure on Palestinian town

Main entrance to Hebron-area village of Bani Naim was blocked in the wake of clashes between IDF, local residents

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

File: IDF soldiers stand guard south of the West Bank city of Hebron, October 20, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
File: IDF soldiers stand guard south of the West Bank city of Hebron, October 20, 2015. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

After nearly seven months of an Israeli-imposed closure, the IDF on Sunday reopened the main entrance to a Palestinian village in the West Bank, the army announced on social media.

The main road connecting the town of Bani Naim to the nearby city of Hebron was closed last October in the wake of violent clashes between local Palestinian residents and IDF soldiers.

According to Hariz Safadi, the area director for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the road was reopened due to the “calm that prevailed” in the town recently.

COGAT, Safadi said, would “continue to introduce new developments in Hebron in light of the relatively quiet situation.” He added that the IDF branch tasked with Palestinian civil affairs was “interested in taking steps to make residents’ life easier.”

Safadi made the announcement on COGAT’s al-Munasek — Arabic for “the coordinator” — Facebook page on Saturday evening.

Israel says its impromptu checkpoints and temporary road barriers in the West Bank — lasting anywhere from days to months — are aimed at apprehending Palestinian assailants and preventing further terror attacks and violence against Israelis. Palestinians say the strategy is a form of collective punishment and a violation of their freedom of movement.

Hebron has some 200,000 Palestinian residents with approximately 500 Israeli settlers living in the center, protected by an army-patrolled buffer zone. The situation is a constant source of tension, and the area has been a focal point of Israeli-Palestinian violence during months of unrest.

From October to the end of March, 29 Israelis and four others were killed in a spate of Palestinian terror attacks, many of them in the Hebron area. Around 190 Palestinians were also killed, some two-thirds of them while carrying out assaults and the rest during clashes with Israeli forces, according to Israeli officials.

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