Naveh orders closed military zone in Hebron (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
OC Central Command Maj.Gen. Yair Naveh signed orders on Monday night declaring Hebron a closed military zone. Fearing a further escalation in violence, the order is designed to prevent more settler supporters from reaching the city to participate in the clashes. Security officials said the closed military zone that effective as of Tuesday morning, facilitated security forces to restore law and order and more easily arrest those spotted participating in violent acts against security forces. As an additional measure to restore the calm, Police geared up to forcibly remove the scores of protesters who arrived in the city in recent days to participate in the unrest. A tense calm prevailed in the city on Monday, which resembled a city under siege, as hundreds of police reinforcements and IDF troops were deployed to quell any further outbreaks of violence. Police arrested three young women who allegedly participated in the clashes and threw stones and eggs at security forces, bringing the total number of demonstrators so far arrested to 22. Police said one of the detainees had in her posession a ninja spike when she was detained. The violence of recent days was spurred by the pending eviction of eight families living in the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood, located in a former wholesale market in the city. Sources in the IDF said that already last week the Hebron residents were informed that there were no plans to evacuate the families this week. According to security officials, the evacuation of the illegal outposts in Samaria will take place before the families in Hebron are forcibly removed. The officials did not rule out the possibility that some time next week, security forces will demolish the nine permanent dwellings in Amona near Ofra that have been deemed illegal, and the three outposts - the Scali Farm near Eilon Moreh, the Arusi Farm near Har Bracha and another site near Yitzhar. Early Monday morning, in order to prevent further damage to Palestinian property in the city caused by Jewish assailants, security forces sealed a number of Palestinian stores located near the Avraham Avinu Quarter. The army said a decision was made to weld the doors shut, to prevent looting and further damage to the property. Since last week a number of Palestinian stores have been broken into, and in some cases set on fire and contents damaged. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered Civil Administration officials in the West Bank to examine the damage caused to Palestinian property and estimate the financial costs in order to compensate them. By mid morning, hundreds of police reinforcements backed by mounted police and Border Police entered the Jewish neighborhood searching for the assailants who attacked security forces during the violent clashes that have rocked the city since last Thursday. Israel Police backed by elite police units and special anti riot squads entered the Avraham Avinu Quarter and Beit Hadassah neighborhoods to search apartments and nab those responsible for attacking security forces. Groups of youth gathered on rooftops and in the road and jeered the security forces, calling them "Gestapo," and "criminals." The police action was harshly criticized by the Hebron Jewish community leadership, who declared the behavior illegal, noting that the police had not even produced search warrants when entering the homes. Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish community in the city declared that in the morning, the leadership requested that the hundreds of youths who had entered the city in recent days, leave and return to their homes. Arnon called the police action provocative, and declared it will only serve to fuel the violence, rather than quell it. "Today we asked the supporters to leave the city, instead of calming the situation the police burst into Avraham Avinu and searched private property. I don't know what they are searching for, the situation is quiet now. They don't even have search warrants, what they are doing is illegal." Police Inspector General Moshe Karadi however disputed the claim, and declared that the law permits police to conduct searches and track down and arrest lawbreakers involved in violence. "Anyone who harmed police or soldiers in the city will be punished," he told Israel Radio. Referring to the events of recent days, Karadi said security forces will show zero tolerance to the lawbreakers. The situation in Hebron is far different from that faced by security forces during the Gaza disengagement, Karadi said. Then security forces were instructed to show tolerance and sensitivity, however in Hebron, police will deal determinedly and with less sensitivity with the youth who reached the city with the intention of causing trouble and breaking the law, he said. Dep.Cmdr. Shlomo Efrati, a senior Hebron Police officer, said police have faced difficulty in identifying the rioters because of the masks they wore to cover their faces when clashing with security forces. He added that the violent demonstrations that took place in the city, were well planned, and that organized transport brought the hundreds of demonstrators to the city where they were provided with accommodation. In fact on January 10, the Hebron Jewish leadership called on "members of the public" to travel to Hebron and attend a prayer rally. The community asked supporters to "start flocking" to Hebron the following day, "in preparation for the possible attempt to expel Hebron families from their homes in Mitzpe Shalhevet." The community leaders said large tents will be available as well as subsidized meals to cater for the expected crowds. Following the Machpela Cave massacre when Baruch Goldstein gunned down and killed 29 Moslem worshipers in 1994, Palestinians fled the market area which was left empty and neglected. The army barred Palestinians from moving back to the area after the outbreak of the Al Aksa intifada. In 2001, eight settlers families occupied the stores in response to the murder of baby Shalhevet Pass, who was shot in the head by a Palestinian sniper. While there is no dispute over the fact that the buildings are located on Jewish owned land, the families living there have failed to prove ownership in a series of appeals held in the High Court of Justice. Because of this, at the orders of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the families were served eviction orders and informed that they had up until January 115 to leave the premises willingly. Moshe Ben Zimra a veteran resident of Hebron said that while he condemns the violence and attacks against security forces, the public should be aware of the facts. "The property where Mitzpe Shalhevet is located, is on Jewish land," he said. Ben Zimra also cautioned the public to refrain from besmirching the names of the entire Hebron Jewish community. "Not everyone is to blame, not everyone was involved in violence," he said. On Sunday, the Hebron district commander Col. Moti Baruch was forced to load his weapon and brandish it in an attempt to ward off an angry crowd of settler youth who surrounded him. On Monday afternoon, under a heavy police presence, the family of Yossi Shok, the father of five who was shot in the head and murdered in a terrorist shooting in the southern Hebron Hills in December, held a memorial service at the Jewish cemetery in Hebron. In the morning Shok's family called on the public to refrain from violence and stressed that they are not involved in the events of recent days, and asked that they be permitted to hold the memorial service in peace. Family members protested a police decision to beef up its presence during the service, suggesting that those participating may resort to violence. "We arrived here to participate in revealing the head stone and be with our loved one. We have no intention of provoking or resorting to violent activities," family members said.