Near total segregation between Israeli Jews and Palestinians is set to be enforced by the IDF in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank, according to a recently-written open letter from head of the regional council Davidi Perel to local residents.
"Unfortunately we do not see an end nearby to the situation, nor a decrease in the motivation of terrorists to carry out attacks," the letter said. Accordingly, Perel wrote, the IDF has decided that soldiers stationed at the Gush Etzion junction will, as far as possible, keep Palestinians away from the Jewish population.
The decision follows an IDF security assessment conducted on Wednesday after an attack at the Gush Etzion Junction. Both Perel and Gush Etzion Brigade Commander Roman Gofman took part.
The issue of segregation is problematic for businesses in the area, which have Jews and Arabs working side-by-side. It is not clear how it will be possible to create separation or segregation at the junction, although it seems that is the intended course of action.
Business owners in Gush Etzion have known better days. Normalized relations between Jews and Arabs in the area had persisted during the wave of violence, but were undone in one moment.
A ticking time bombA shopping complex in the area that was declared a "sterilized zone" during the recent attacks, had become an island of sanity amidst the chaos. On Wednesday, however, an assailant chose this spot to stage an attack; in contrast to previous incidents in the area, during which soldiers or police were attacked, this time the victims were civilians leaving the shopping complex.
"They always told me that the junction is a ticking bomb but I never really believed that the problems would reach here until they really did," says Hodaya Bilig, a resident of Gush Etzion who had come to shop just hours after the stabbing attack on Wednesday. A woman, Nirit Zamora, was moderately wounded in the attack.
On Thursday morning Sha'arei Tzedek hospital, where Zamora was hospitalized after the attack, said that Zamora had undergone a successful operation on where she had been stabbed along her spine and that her condition had started to improve.
Wednesday's attack took place one day after another attack at Gush Etzion junction, in which two attackers stabbed a soldier waiting at a hitchhiking station. The soldier was moderately wounded.
In addition, last week a Palestinian ran over a 20-year-old IDF soldier and a 21-year-old Israeli citizen who were at the junction, lightly wounding both of them.
In spite of the worrying spate of attacks, workers at the complex are trying to maintain cautious optimism. "Everything here is working as needed," said an Arab employee who lives in a nearby village.
"I have Arab employees and Jewish customers and everything is running normally," said a business owner at the junction.
"While it's true that there's been a decline in customers, we have to understand that we must not be afraid or show signs of weakness," says Uzi Tzfadia, a store manager at the complex said.
"There are security personnel here who know how to respond as necessary."