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 this morning. The sole purpose of the raids was to post decrees designating the land between the Wall and the developed 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 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 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”.
Issuing of these 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 upon dozens of protest related arrests. Recently, the Army issued 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. Arrests were made despite a clear ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court the previous week stating the importance of allowing protest in the neighborhood.
Additionally, 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.