Israel Imposes Restrictions on Palestinians in West Bank After Attacks

JERUSALEM — After two deadly attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank in two days, Israel announced sweeping measures on Friday to limit the movement of Palestinian residents and punish their government.

The moves came as an international report warned both sides that their actions could contribute to a state of “perpetual occupation and conflict.”

The Israeli military said Friday that it would prevent all Palestinian travel between towns and villages in the southern West Bank, including the major city of Hebron, after an Israeli motorist was shot and killed there on Friday. It also ordered in two more battalions to secure the area.

The Israeli government, meanwhile, said it would withhold some crucial tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, a pressure tactic it reserves for extreme situations.

The closings in the West Bank were the harshest measures imposed on Palestinians since three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in June 2014, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said on Friday. The kidnappings were part of a string of events that culminated in a devastating war that summer between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

“This isn’t a normal situation, and that’s why we are taking substantial steps on the ground,” Colonel Lerner said, adding that the moves were intended to “disrupt, prevent and foil additional attacks.”

Late on Friday night, Colonel Lerner reported on Twitter that a rocket fired from Gaza had hit and damaged a building in the border town of Sderot; Israeli news outlets said it damaged a kindergarten, empty at that hour.


Israeli Military Revokes Use of Maximum Force to Foil Captures JUNE 28, 2016
In response, Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes on four Hamas sites in the northern and central Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement early Saturday.

The West Bank actions were announced after one or more gunmen fired on a family traveling in a car near Hebron on Friday, killing the father and seriously wounding the mother, the Israeli military reported. Two of their children were also injured when the car overturned along a narrow highway that runs through the southern West Bank. The assailants fled.

The shooting came a day after a Palestinian teenager stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl while she slept in her bedroom in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The two episodes suggested that the surge in stabbings and shootings that began in October has intensified after waning for months. The violence has left more than 30 Israelis dead. More than 210 Palestinians have also been killed, most while carrying out attacks or when thought to be about to do so.

Much of the violence has been concentrated in the Hebron area, where there is more friction among Palestinians, Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers. Colonel Lerner estimated that at least 80 attacks had occurred in the area.

The restrictions on Hebron and its surrounding towns and villages were intended to prevent all movement except for urgent humanitarian aid, and will affect tens of thousands of Palestinians, including those with permits to work in Israel, a crucial source of income in the area.

“It will be extremely limited,” Colonel Lerner said of exceptions to the restrictions. Palestinians can also “expect to see much more forces on the ground,” he said, adding, “There will be checkpoints and other activities.”

Just hours before the emergency restrictions were enacted around Hebron on Friday, the so-called Middle East Quartet took both sides to task: Israel for building settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians for inciting deadly attacks.

Friends and relatives of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl who was stabbed by a Palestinian attacker in her home, mourned during her funeral on Thursday in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The quartet, which is made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, said that Israel should cease its policy of building settlements in the occupied West Bank, stop setting aside land for “exclusive Israeli use” and end the practice of denying Palestinians permission to build homes.

The report also sharply criticized Palestinian groups for glorifying individuals who carry out deadly attacks, and it pointed to the Palestinian Authority’s lack of control on the restive Gaza Strip, calling on Palestinian leaders to “cease incitement to violence.”

The report was an attempt to nudge the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations, which broke down more than two years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Friday that he welcomed the report’s criticism of Palestinian incitement.

“This culture of hatred poisons minds and destroys lives and stands as the single greatest obstacle to progress toward peace,” the statement said.

The prime minister’s office also announced that the government planned to deduct tax revenues from the estimated $130 million transferred monthly to the Palestinian Authority. The statement did not say how much would be deducted, only that the amount was meant to equal what the Israeli government says is “being transferred by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families.”

Palestinian officials did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations.

The quartet’s nine-page report contains no hint that the group favors any legally binding measures by its members or the United Nations Security Council. As such, its impact may be limited, at least for now.

The United Nations envoy who was involved in drafting the report, Nickolay Mladenov, said the goal was to show both sides that it is in their interest to return to negotiations.

The report offered strong criticism of Israeli settlements. Since the start of the Oslo peace talks in 1993, settlements in the occupied West Bank have doubled, the report says, mostly “unilaterally taken for exclusive Israeli use.” From 2009 to 2014, the report says, a small fraction of applications for Palestinian housing construction were approved; none were granted in 2015. Instead, in the first four months of the year, 500 Palestinian structures were demolished.

“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state,” the report says.

Among its strongest recommendations: “Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the report “perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace.”

It holds Hamas principally responsible for glorifying terrorism, openly calling for violent attacks against Jews and posting instructions on social media on how to carry out stabbings. But, in a bid to address Israeli concerns, the report also urges the Palestinian Authority to “cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general, Saeb Erekat, took issue with what he said was the report’s attempt to “equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier.”

The recent attacks by Palestinians have been fueled in part by incendiary posts on social media and by militant groups urging more violence. But they also reflect growing despair by young Palestinians in particular over lives constrained by Israel’s decades-long military occupation and their own rudderless leadership.

Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian woman was shot dead in Hebron after the police said she had brandished a knife near a contentious holy site shared by Muslims and Jews, known as the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Also on Friday, a Palestinian man, Mohammad Habash, 63, died when thousands of worshipers tried to rush through a military checkpoint from the West Bank to Jerusalem. The melee occurred when Palestinians celebrating Ramadan tried to reach the holy site known to Muslims as Al Aqsa compound, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Follow Diaa Hadid on Twitter @diaahadid, and Somini Sengupta @SominiSengupta.

Diaa Hadid reported from Jerusalem, and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations.

A version of this article appears in print on July 2, 2016, on page A7 of the New York edition with the headline: Israel Imposes Tough Restrictions on Palestinians in West Bank After Attacks. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe