west bank palestinian car checkpoint aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The IDF on Wednesday banned Israeli civilians from entering checkpoints around Nablus, in an effort to remove left-wing activists from the sites, where the army says they have interfered with soldiers conducting security checks.
The move has been slammed as a violation of the Geneva Convention by the Israeli organization Machsom Watch, which is comprised of 400 women volunteers who regularly monitor the checkpoints.
OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni signed a decree on Wednesday turning the Ma'aravim, Hawara, Awarta and Beit Furik checkpoints, all situated around Nablus, into closed military zones and thus off-limits to Israeli civilians.
"In Nablus, the situation has become intolerable," an IDF source told The Jerusalem Post. "The soldiers are unable to fulfill their duties because of interruptions."
Soldiers and their commanders have complained of having to engage in verbal confrontations with the activists, who challenge their conduct at the checkpoints. Activists have at times demanded explanations from commanding officers of what they view as human rights violations.
The army source stressed that the decree applies to all Israeli civilians "irrespective of ideology," adding that security was the central consideration behind the move.
But Machsom Watch insists that most of its activity involves documenting what takes place at the checkpoints and composing reports, which are then posted on the group's Web site.
Machsom Watch spokeswoman Raiya Yaron told the Post that members of her organization "do not come to the checkpoints to provoke the soldiers."
"For eight years we have been documenting what is happening at checkpoints between Nablus and Palestinian villages in the heart of the West Bank, 40 kilometers from Kfar Saba," she said.
"This is a protest movement against the occupation and for human rights, to shed light on what is happening far from the public eye," Yaron added.
Yaron said Wednesday's ban was a "violation of the Geneva Convention," and vowed that her organization will "legally protest against the decree."
Machsom Watch is opposed to the presence of any Israeli checkpoints within the West Bank, calling for checkpoints to be erected only "on the border between Israel and Palestine."
"We are citizens of Israel, we all served in the army, and we have children and grandchildren in the army. We don't come to bother soldiers. It is our presence, the very fact that we are checking what the army is doing, that is a form of protest," she added.
"We believe our presence makes violations of human rights at the checkpoints less likely," Yaron said.