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Israel to restrict Palestinian movement in Gush Etzion after shooting

Nov. 20, 2015 1:27 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 21, 2015 9:59 A.M.)
An Israeli soldier stands guard at the Qalandiya checkpoint as thousands of Palestinians wait to cross from the West Bank to Jerusalem. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli officials have agreed to increase security measures in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, located in the occupied West Bank, in response to a deadly shooting attack on Thursday, including increased restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.

Israeli news site Ynet reported Friday that the measures could include the temporary restriction of movement of Palestinians in the area, the deployment of extra Israeli security forces, and the construction of a "fence" along certain roads.

The measures come after a meeting between the Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli army's chief of staff, and the mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, an administrative body for illegal settlements in the area.

The regional council also urged settlers who own firearms to voluntarily accompany children on school buses to assist as first responders after attacks.

On Thursday, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at the Gush Etzion junction killing two Israelis and a Palestinian man.

The Gush Etzion settlement bloc has been the scene of multiple attacks by Palestinians since an upsurge in violence in October.

Most of the attackers have been shot dead at the scene, with several cases raising widespread controversy over Israel’s “shoot to kill” policy that critics claim has led to “extrajudicial executions.”

The freedom of movement for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank is already severely restricted by at least 100 permanent military checkpoints, hundreds of physical barriers, and the separation wall.

Since an escalation in violence last month, Israel has closed off entire neighborhoods in East Jerusalem with concrete blocks and flying checkpoints, severely disrupting the daily routine of 300,000 Palestinians.

A researcher for Amnesty International said the restrictions witnessed in the al-Issawiya neighborhood amounted to "collective punishment."

In Hebron, another area where attacks have been concentrated, the entire Old City was declared a closed military zone, with shops forced to close and residents having to register for special permits to cross through the 18 military checkpoints in the city center.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem called the measures in Hebron "draconian" and constituting "collective punishment."

A series of attacks have been carried out by Palestinian individuals on Israeli military and civilians since the beginning of last month, leaving at least 15 Israelis dead.

At least 88 Palestinians have been killed during the same time period, many of whom were shot dead under circumstances in which rights groups said Israeli forces used unnecessary force.

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