Israel locks down flashpoint Hebron after spate of attacks

On Friday, Sarah Tarayra, 27, was shot dead after drawing a knife on Israeli forces in Hebron. 

AFP| Updated: Jul 02, 2016, 14:03 PM IST

Hebron: Israeli troops locked down the occupied West Bank`s most populous city Hebron and surrounding villages on Saturday after two Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks nearby.
Troops locked gates and set up barriers blocking access routes to villages in the area and closed all exit roads from the city except for the northern one through the town of Halhul towards Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent reported.

The army announced on Friday that it would close off the flashpoint city and deploy two additional battalions to the area. 

The measures were described as the "most substantial steps on the ground" since 2014, when Israeli forces carried out a huge search operation in the southern West Bank for three young hitchhikers abducted and later murdered by Palestinian militants.

Hebron has been one of the main focuses of a wave of deadly unrest that has rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories since last October.

At least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese have been killed.

The army has said that around 80 of the attacks on Israelis have been carried out by Palestinians from the Hebron area.
Several hundred Jewish settlers live in a tightly guarded enclave in the heart of the city of more than 200,000 Palestinians, a persistent source of tensions.

On Thursday, 19-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Nasser Tarayra broke into the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron and killed 13-year-old Israeli-American Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her bedroom before being shot dead by a security guard. 

And on Friday, 48-year-old Michael Mark was killed after his car was fired on by a suspected Palestinian gunman south of Hebron.

The army was conducting searches in the area on Saturday but there were no immediate reports of any arrests.

An army spokesman said the closure was "intended to break the chain of lethal attacks."

"The physical presence will also disrupt, prevent and foil additional attacks, inspired by the attackers of the last 48 hours," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP. 

On Friday, Sarah Tarayra, 27, was shot dead after drawing a knife on Israeli forces in Hebron. She was a relative of the Kiryat Arba attacker, and both were from Bani Naim, a village just outside Hebron. 

Lerner said the army had revoked the Israeli work permits of all residents of the village.

The army said no decision had been taken on how long the closure would remain in place, but Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it should stay "for an extended period of time."