Fields adjacent to two Palestinian Authority towns near Israel's Judea and Samaria barrier have been declared a “closed military zone.” The towns, Bilin and Naalin, have been the site of weekly violent protests against the barrier.
IDF soldiers entered the two towns late on Sunday night to put up posters alerting residents to the order. The order will be in effect for five months, until August 17.
The territory declared off-limits consists of empty fields between the barrier and the built-up areas of Bilin and Naalin. Locals will not be allowed to enter the territory between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, and Israelis and foreign nationals will not be allowed to stay in either town during those hours.
Violent weekly protests in the two towns began five years ago, often involving the targeting of IDF soldiers and Border Guard policemen by rioters with heavy rocks. The protests were spurred on by Israeli anarchists and foreign activists.
The violence has sometimes escalated to the point of death or serious injury. An IDF soldier lost an eye during a riot in Bilin in 2005, and an Arab protester died in 2009 when he was hit in the chest by a tear gas canister.
The closure was announced one day after a PA Arab man responsible for organizing protests in Bilin, Iyad Burnat, sent out an email announcing, “The third Intifada is knocking on the door.” Burnat was subsequently summoned by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for questioning.