Israel closes off Hebron and withholds tax transfers to Palestinians after West Bank killings
JERUSALEM // Israel cordoned off the city of Hebron on Friday and intends to reduce monthly transfers of tax collected on behalf of the Palestinians in response to the killing of two Israelis in two days in the West Bank.
The Israeli army also deployed hundreds more soldiers in Hebron in what was described as “the most substantial steps on the ground” since 2014.
The two killings occurred less than 36 hours apart. On Friday, Palestinian gunmen shot at a family car near Hebron, causing it to crash, killing an Israeli man and wounding his wife and two teenage children. The attack came a day after a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl as she slept in her bedroom in a West Bank settlement.
The amount deducted from about $130 million which is sent to the Palestinian Authority (PA) each month will be equal to the stipends the Authority pays militants in Israeli prisons and the families of militants who have been jailed or killed, said a statement from the office of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.
“Incitement and payouts to terrorists and their relatives constitute an incentive to murder,” the statement read.
Under the terms of interim peace agreements from the 1990s, Israel collects tax on behalf of the PA, which exercises limited self-rule. The revenues are crucial to running the PA and paying public-sector salaries. Israel withheld tax money in 2012 and last year in response to Palestinian moves for statehood recognition abroad..
Friday began with violence as an Israeli guard shot and killed a Palestinian woman who had tried to stab another guard during a security check outside a volatile West Bank shrine revered by both Muslim and Jews.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the incident began when the woman aroused suspicions at a checkpoint near the shrine in Hebron, a frequent flashpoint of violence. She was asked to go into a room to be searched by a female police officer. The woman — since identified as Sarah Tarayreh, 27, — pulled out a knife and tried to stab the female officer, whereupon another guard at the scene shot dead the Palestinian woman.
Tarayreh was from the same town and the same clan as the Palestinian youth who killed the Israeli girl, but was not a close relative. Video footage which purports to show the incident on the Israeli news website Ynet shows soldiers rushing toward the door of a room in the inspection area and standing outside. Four shots ring out, followed by a man shouting in Hebrew, “stop, stop, stop,” and then a woman saying in Arabic, “What did I do?”
It is not clear from the footage who fired the shots, what happened inside the room, who spoke in Arabic or if the footage had been edited.
By imposing the twin retaliatory measures of closing off a busy area of the West Bank and withholding much needed finances, Israel risks inflaming an already volatile situation even further.
The Palestinians and Israeli rights groups have accused Israel of using excessive force at times by killing assailants who they say could have been subdued. In some cases, Palestinians were killed as they tried to flee the scene, or after they had already been stopped or wounded after an attack. Israel claims says the violence is fuelled by a Palestinian campaign of incitement, compounded on social media sites that glorify and encourage attacks. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.
Meanwhile, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday visited the family of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the teenage girl who was murdered in her bed on Thursday.
“To see Hallel’s room, to see the blood stains next to her bed and the books and clothes of a small child, this is shocking,” he said. “It reminds us again who we are facing. They want to uproot what has been planted and we will deepen the roots. They will not make us leave here.”
Updated: July 1, 2016 04:00 AM