Beit Ommar Locked Down for Most of Past Two Days

30 December 2007

Tensions are running high as residents in and around the Palestinian village of Beit Ommar find themselves virtually incarcerated. Israeli soldiers at all ends of Beit Ommar sealed the village off to both incoming and outgoing traffic, be it by vehicle or foot, for the majority of the day today and most of yesterday.

At around 10 am this morning the Israeli Occupation Forces moved in on Beit Ommar. What followed was a several hour long barrage of gunshots, sound blast grenades, tear gas, search and seizures and profanity. The IOF brought in bulldozers and humvees, sealing off all entries and exits to and from Beit Ommar which are already sparse due to road closures and checkpoints that litter the Palestinian area. IOF soldiers began combing the small farming community from house to house in the name of “security.” The soldiers claimed to be searching for militants.

As the day went on the intrusion got increasingly more violent as the army began firing sound grenades and tear gas into crowded areas. A nearby school was let out early with the hopes of clearing the children from the danger zone which was encroaching on the school itself. Several of the children in attendance are from surrounding villages due to lack of schools in their respective villages. As a result of the closure of Beit Ommar, the children remained trapped in the village, unable to return home to their parents, and, also as a result, parents were not allowed to collect their children.

Today’s closure lasted between five to six hours. Cars and Palestinian run taxis were piled up inside and just outside Beit Ommar for several hours. As the village was in lockdown, Route 60, the main route between Palestinian towns and villages was exclusively closed off to Palestinians altogether as only those with yellow, Israeli license plates were allowed on the road.

Occupation forces were also seen installing a gate, or future checkpoint area in the nearby village of Halhul. Current road closures have made it so that traveling through the village of Halhul is the only way for Palestinians to reach the Palestinian city of Hebron, a major center for trade amongst Palestinians living in nearby areas. This new checkpoint will only further restrict the movement of Palestinians who are already boxed in as it stands now. All this comes at a time when Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister, has been publically declaring that the Israeli military will relieve some of the restrictions of movement on Palestinians in the West Bank.

It is common for the Israeli Military to use attacks on Israelis, such as the shooting of two Israeli soldiers in the Hebron district a few days ago, as a pretext for subjecting ordinary Palestinian civilians to intimidation, imprisonment, and harassment in a clear act of collective punishment, contrary to international law.