Israeli forces have sealed the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar since March 24 for an indefinite time.
Soldiers continue to arrest young Palestinian residents and hold them in Israeli detention centres.
In a move akin to the four-year-long economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers have closed the six entrances to the village of 17,000 inhabitants.
It has imposed a widespread prohibition policy against all major imports and exports from the village. This includes gasoline, produce, raw industrial materials and basic supplies.
Ambulances have also been prevented from entering or exiting the village.
The closures and arrests followed a brazen attack by an Israeli settler on a funeral procession on March 21.
The settler started firing indiscriminately on mourners with live ammunition, injuring two Palestinian men, the Beit Ommar-based Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) reported.
“The settler who shot the two men was not arrested,” PSP said.
“Israeli forces arrived on the scene and used sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the gathered crowd as medical teams evacuated the wounded.”
The attack came amid a widespread spate of settler violence against Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The Palestine News Network reported that Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in Ramallah, Jenin and Hebron on March 30 and 31.
After the attack, Israeli forces closed the main entrance to Beit Ommar. Special forces invaded the village and shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets before arresting three Palestinian residents, PSP said on March 25.
All six entrances to the village were shut the next day and have not been reopened. Beit Ommar residents and international solidarity activists protested against the closures and collective punishment on March 26.
On the evening of March 27, 15 young Palestinians were arrested and remain in detention at the military base in nearby Gush Etzion settlement. Seven of them are under 18 years old.
The military gave no reason for their arrests and detentions, PSP said.
Yousef Abu Maria, coordinator of the Center for Freedom and Justice in Beit Ommar (CFJ), told ElectronicIntifada.net that the indefinite closures imposed on the village have already created an economic crisis for Beit Ommar’s residents.
“The industrial factories in Beit Ommar are effectively closed,” Abu Maria said. “There haven’t been any imported raw materials from the outside.
“And the gas station will close soon, because there isn’t enough gas. Essential products are hard to obtain right now in the village.”
Ahmed Oudeh of the PSP and the CFJ told EletronicIntifada.net that farmers in the village who depend on exporting their produce to nearby cities and towns face a dire financial situation.
Pregnant women and people needing medical attention are not able to reach the hospital, as the policy affects ambulance access to and from the village.
ElectronicIntifada.net witnessed a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance being turned away at the front gate of Beit Ommar, forced by Israeli soldiers to find a rural route out of the village.
This is against international law.
Abu Maria said schoolteachers working in the village are having difficulties getting to and from Beit Ommar, since the roads are sealed and public buses and taxis are being turned away by the soldiers at the gates.
“[These policies are] a collective punishment for the people in Beit Ommar.”
Meanwhile, a new section of the Efrat settlement colony on the other side of the highway is being built, according to a new map issued by the Israeli military and obtained by the CFJ.
Beit Ommar is surrounded by several illegal settlements.
Abu Maria said the main purpose of the current closures is to “take more land and expand the settlements”.
Beit Ommar resident Naama Hassan Sleibi, 65, told ElectronicIntifada.net that she and her husband have been farmers their whole lives, but continue to lose their land as the nearby Karmei Tsur settlement expands.
For years, Beit Ommar’s residents have engaged in unwavering civil disobedience against the encroaching settlements and land confiscation policies.
Abu Maria said part of Israel’s intention to impose the closures and control movement of the villagers is to break the steadfast resistance inside Beit Ommar.
[Abridged from www.electronicintifada.net . Nora Barrows-Friedman is an award-winning independent journalist.]