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16.3.10

Entire Villages Declared “Closed Military Zones” for Protesting

Israeli Army: Bil’in and Ni’ilin a Closed Military Zone for a Six Months Period

Dozens of masked soldiers raided the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin this morning to post decrees designating the village’s lands as a closed military zone on Fridays for a period of six months.

One week after the head of the Israeli Shin Bet threatened to aggravate the repression of the Palestinian popular struggle, a large military force raided the villages of Bil’in and Ni’ilin at 3:30AM tonight. The sole purpose of the raids was to post decrees designating the lands between the Wall and the built up area of the villages as closed military zones between 8AM to 8PM every Friday for a period of half a year. The decrees, which came into effect already on February 17th, are signed by the recently appointed commander of the Israeli Central Command, Avi Mizrahi, himself. Closed military zone orders are usually signed by a brigade commander, a much lower rank.



Gaby Lasky, the lawyer who represents residents of the villages, said that “This is yet another illegal measure taken by the Army, which makes ill use of its authority in order to suppress dissent and infringe on the already volatile freedom of speech in the Territories. Closed military zone orders are not meant to deal with demonstrations, which are clearly in the civic rather than the military realm”

The issuing of the decrees happens in the midst of an ongoing persecution campaign against Palestinian activists in an attempt to suppress the rising tide of West Bank popular resistance to the Occupation. In recent months Israel has carried dozens on dozens of protest related arrests, while protests have grown increasingly strong, like the fifth anniversary of Bil’in. The order goes into effect shortly before 5th Annual International Conference on Popular Struggle is scheduled to take place on April 21-23. Recently, the Army had also issue a blanket decree forbidding certain cars belonging to Israeli activists from entering the West Bank on Fridays, regardless of who is in them, where they are heading or the purpose of their trip. Seventeen Israeli protesters were also arrested last Friday in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem after the police declared the demonstration illegal for no apparent reason and despite a clear ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court the previous week stating the importance of allowing protest in the neighborhood.

Adittionaly, Iyad Burnat, the head of the Bil’in popular committee was summoned to a Shin Bet questioning yesterday, only an hour after he sent out an email titled “The third Intifada is knocking on the door”, which contained reports on various demonstrations and protest activities that took place in the West Bank during the previous week.