Israel cancels West Bankers’ Gaza visits after attacks

It came as 26-year-old Malachi Rosenfeld, shot dead in the West Bank on his way back from a basketball game Monday

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Israel said Wednesday it was revoking permits for hundreds of Palestinians living in the West Bank to visit relatives in the Gaza Strip, after a series of attacks, some fatal.

The announcement by COGAT, the agency that manages civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, was the latest reversal to measures easing movement for Palestinians during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

It came as 26-year-old Malachi Rosenfeld, shot dead in the West Bank on his way back from a basketball game Monday, was buried in the Kochav Hashachar settlement where he lived.

Education minister and religious-nationalist Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, speaking in a graveyard eulogy, said “our enemy is not a partner for peace; their way is that of terror and will be treated as such.”

Over the past 10 days, there have been a number of violent incidents in which Palestinians have knifed or shot at Israeli security personnel, as well as shot dead an Israeli hiker, in annexed east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Tuesday “there was no doubt that one of the significant factors behind the attacks was incitement, specifically of the Palestinian Authority.”

The army has not said if it believes whether Monday’s shootings were carried out by a lone attacker, a small group or a larger network.

On Wednesday, the Shin Bet internal security agency announced it had arrested 40 members of militant Islamist group Hamas in and around the northern West Bank city Nablus.

They were part of an attempt to set up a network that would enable attacks on Israeli targets, Shin Bet said, and included contact with Hossam Badran, a Qatar-based spokesman for the group, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Those detentions led to the arrest of two Hamas operatives in nearby city Jenin who were preparing an attack, Shin Bet said.

There was no immediate link between the arrests and the wave of attacks, which led COGAT Tuesday to tighten access of West Bank Palestinians for prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque. Men under 50 and women between 16-30 would only be admitted if they held individual permits.

Israel had eased some restrictions on Palestinian movement from the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem for Ramadan.

But in response to the June 21 stabbing of a policeman, it revoked entry permits to residents of the attacker’s village and cancelled permission for 500 West Bank Palestinians to fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

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