The Israeli military has partially closed off certain areas and checkpoints in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as tensions between Palestinian residents and Israeli forces rise.
The entrances to several small towns and villages across the West Bank have been closed off by the army, often with dirt mounds and concrete blocks, since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, according to local residents. Some Palestinian residents said they had taken advantage of brief moments when Israeli soldiers were not present to remove the roadblocks and allow cars to pass, but also that the soldiers had repeatedly restored them.
Many checkpoints that Palestinians have to bypass to move between towns have been completely closed or have seen an increasing army presence, residents said.
Huwara — a Palestinian town that has been the site of several recent mass settler attacks on Palestinian homes and businesses — has been hit particularly hard by the closures. Shops on its sole main road, the lifeline of the town, have been shuttered for more than a week since the Israeli Army set up checkpoints, restricting access for Palestinians. Residents said that in the meantime, Israeli settlers had been allowed to roam free.
In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces have significantly increased their presence and set up roadblocks and checkpoints in some neighborhoods, where clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians have erupted on several occasions. At least seven Palestinians have been killed and numerous others have been wounded, according to statements from the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Ir Amim, an advocacy group based in Jerusalem, said that eight East Jerusalem neighborhoods had been seriously affected by the closures of crossings and checkpoints. The Israeli group added that these closings had isolated some 140,000 Palestinians from the rest of the city, where many work, study and seek medical treatment.
The group warned that such closures amount to “collective punishment” and infringe on residents’ freedom of movement.
The Israeli military said it had raided several towns in the occupied West Bank overnight on Monday and arrested 40 Palestinians, including 20 who are believed to have ties to Hamas. WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, said that at least 73 Palestinians had been arrested in the Israeli-occupied territory overnight. The military said that it has arrested 360 Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of the war.
At least one Palestinian was killed in gun battles during one such raid on a refugee camp near Jericho. At least 59 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the Israeli Army and Jewish settlers since the war started, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The United Nations said on Monday that the number of West Bank Palestinians killed since the war started was the highest recorded number of Palestinians killed in a single week since 2017.
As ethnic and religious tensions continued to rise across the region after Hamas’s attacks on Israelis, calls among far-right settler groups to attack Palestinians and their properties have also significantly increased in the past week.
Messages calling for revenge attacks against Palestinians have been circulating on settler WhatsApp groups with thousands of members since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. In one message circulated in several chats, settlers warned Palestinians in a specific town against holding “a public funeral for a terrorist who was killed.”
“You should bury him at night and in secret,” the message said.
Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlement activity, warned on Sunday of an “alarming trend of increased settler violence” and said that dozens of settler attacks had taken place across the West Bank since Hamas launched its deadly assaults on Israel.
Palestinians have reported that many settlers have been walking around their towns armed with guns and assault rifles.
“Settlers have always been armed,” said Munir Qaddus, a resident of the village of Burin, near Nablus, who monitors settler attacks for Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group. But this past week, he added, “settlers were given the green light to shoot any Palestinian that comes near any settlement.”
Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said last week that he had instructed his ministry to purchase over 10,000 firearms for civilian emergency response teams in several settlements throughout the country. The minister — who was convicted in Israel of anti-Arab incitement before taking up his post — also said on Monday that his ministry was discussing “a real reform in the possibility of the right to arms for the citizens of Israel.”
Mr. Qaddus said the announcement had “caused mass fear and horror for Palestinians.”
“The situation is very difficult and tragic in the West Bank,” he said.
Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Ramallah, West Bank.