The Israel Defense Force is shifting gears in its battle with the Friday protests against the construction of the separation fence in the West Bank villages of Bilin and Naalin.
IDF soldiers on Monday posted flyers throughout the village of Bilin stating that the vicinity surrounding the separation fence will be declared a closed military zone every Friday from now until August 17. The flyers featured a map that outlines the restricted area, which includes the vicinity where the weekly protests take place.
The flyer, signed by Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, stated that it is forbidden to approach the area appearing on the map every Friday between 8 am and 8 pm, unless equipped with a special permit.
Posting flyers in Bilin Sunday night (Photo: Hamdi Abu Rahma)
According to the notice, Israeli citizens and foreign nationals must leave the village between these hours, and that the decision was made in order to maintain security and public order in the area.
Muhammad Khatib, a member of the Popular Committee against the Separation Fence told Ynet that this step shows the immense pressure these protests put on the military. "We will discuss this decision and its legality. Such a sweeping restriction is unacceptable, as it is clearly first and foremost meant to impede our right to protest."
Khatib added that the Shin Bet (Israeli internal intelligence agency) summoned his colleague after the latter distributed an e-mail regarding the demonstrations. "A member of our committee, Iyad Burnat sent an e-mail titled 'The third intifada is knocking at the door.' Before he got a chance to send all the emails out, he received a phone call from a Shin Bet representative asking him to report for a meeting; this clearly shows the pressure put on the army," Khatib said.
Similar flyers were posted in the adjacent village of Naalin, where areas in the vicinity of the fence were declared closed military zones. The decree was presented to protesters detained during last Friday's demonstration.
The IDF Spokesperson's United said in response: "The closed military zone order in the area between the security fence and the villages of Naalin and Bilin was signed three weeks ago in hopes of preventing the arrival of inciting elements."
The IDF stressed that "the order does not apply to the residents of the villages and they will be allowed to move freely."