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Palestinian officials denounce Israeli attempts to trade permits for good behavior

Aug. 14, 2017 8:04 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 15, 2017 4:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian officials on Monday spoke out against recent Israeli actions in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, where the army distributed leaflets on Sunday calling on Palestinians from the city to “behave” in order to obtain lessened security restrictions on some of the city’s residents.

Muhammad al-Bakr, who serves as a coordinator of political and national forces in the Hebron governorate, said in a statement that the leaflets were “nothing but an Israeli attempt to circumvent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to halt security coordination with Israel.”

“In accordance with the Oslo agreement, there are official Palestinian authorities specialized in liaising between Palestinians and Israel,” adding that the Oslo Accords “ban Palestinians from dealing with Israel directly.”

Israeli forces had distributed leaflets in the al-Moskobiya, al-Salam, and al-Mahawir neighborhoods of Hebron City, stating that residents of those areas who had previously been refused entry permits to Israel would be eligible to apply on Tuesday for the security ban against them to be removed -- allowing them to request entry permits to Israel in the future.

A similar one-day campaign allowing Palestinians to appeal their Israel travel bans was organized a week earlier for residents of the Hebron-area town of Idhna, the army said in a statement, adding that 52 Idhna residents had seen their security ban lifted immediately, while 137 more cases were being studied.

"These campaigns are part of the security forces' efforts to help peaceful Palestinian residents who do not partake in terror attacks," the army statement read.

Al-Bakri demanded the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) take a stand on the issue, saying “it is the duty of Palestinian political leadership to make a central decision and apply it in all regions,” referring to Abbas’ decision to halt security coordination with Israel.

In the wake of a deadly shoot-out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 14 that led to increased Israeli security measures at the holy site, the PA announced that it had suspended all contacts with Israel.

Despite Israel removing the new security measures after nearly two weeks of large-scale Palestinian protests, the PA said in late July that it was maintaining the coordination freeze.

The PA’s security coordination with Israel has been denounced as a “revolving door” policy funneling Palestinian activists from PA jails to Israeli prisons, and is seen as a primary reason for the growing unpopularity of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

When asked about restrictions on Palestinian movement since security coordination was frozen, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Abbas’ advisor on religious and Islamic affairs, told Ma’an that Palestinians "won't be bound by Israeli measures as we have many alternatives."

He added that Palestinian citizens and political leadership should bear the consequences of the Palestinian national struggle, even if that meant "some suffering in (freedom of) movement," as such suffering, he said, was "nothing" compared to the higher national goal of getting rid of the occupation.

While officials saw the distribution of the leaflets in Hebron as a circumvention of Abbas' authority, the move was initially tied to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s "carrot and stick" policy toward Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, whereby harsher punishment would be imposed upon families and villages from which "terrorists" originate, while economic benefits would be granted to areas that "have not produced terrorists."

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