Israel cracks down on Palestinians

Israel has imposed a series of sweeping restrictions on Palestinian movement and deployed hundreds of additional troops to the West Bank in response to a Tel Aviv attack that killed four Israelis.

The shooting, carried out by two West Bank Palestinians, targeted a crowded tourist and restaurant district in the heart of Tel Aviv and was among the deadliest and most brazen attacks in a nine-month wave of violence. The area is located across the street from the Israeli military’s headquarters.

As prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet his security cabinet to discuss further responses, the Israeli military announced that it was deploying two additional battalions to the West Bank “in accordance with situation assessments.”

The deployment, involving hundreds of troops, includes soldiers from infantry and special forces units.

Among the participants in the Security Cabinet meeting was Israel’s new defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of an ultranationalist party known for his hardline views toward the Palestinians. 

Before the meeting, Lieberman visited the site of the shooting and had a cup of coffee in a local cafe.

“I do not intend to speak and detail the steps we intend to take, but I am sure that I have no intention to stop at words,” he said.

Earlier, defence officials suspended tens of thousands of special permits given to Palestinians to visit Israel during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

COGAT, an Israeli defence body, said 83,000 permits for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel had been frozen. 

Special Ramadan permits were also suspended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to visit relatives in Israel, travel abroad and attend prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, COGAT said.

Israel considers the Ramadan permits a goodwill gesture toward Palestinians.

In addition, the military said it had frozen Israeli work permits for 204 of the attackers’ relatives, and was preventing Palestinians from leaving and entering the West Bank village of Yatta, the attackers’ home village. COGAT said that entering or leaving will only be permitted for humanitarian and medical cases.

The military was also making preparations to demolish the family home of one of the attackers.

Israel often responds to attacks by demolishing the homes of the assailants or their relatives — a tactic that is criticised by the Palestinians and human rights groups as collective punishment.

In Tel Aviv, extra police units were mobilised, mainly around the city’s central bus station and train stations, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

The ‘Sarona’ compound, the scene of Wednesday’s shooting, quickly reopened.

In the attack, two Palestinians dressed in black suits opened fire at the Max Brenner restaurant in Sarona, killing four Israelis and wounding nine others.


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