BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces blocked all entrances into Hizma town on Wednesday as a punitive measure for alleged incidents of stone-throwing, a human rights group and Israeli media reported.
Israeli forces are reported to have placed a large sign at the entrance of the eastern Jerusalem-district town requesting that residents divulge information about those “disturbing the peace.”
According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the Arabic sign read: “To the area’s residents: Only a few are responsible for disturbing the peace – because of them, this barrier was placed. You must not cooperate with them! Stop these actions that harm your lives.
“For the sake of your well-being and the restoration of peace and security to your area, send any pieces of information on those who disturb the peace and on their activities in the area.”
The sign gave the contact details for a local Israeli military commander, whom it referred to as “Abu Salam.”
B’Tselem condemned Israel’s decision to seal the town, and said that Wednesday was the first time a sign had been posted holding an entire village responsible for alleged stone-throwing.
“Restricting the freedom of movement of 7,000 people, the majority of whom have nothing to do with the stone-throwing, constitutes collective punishment; as such, it is prohibited under international law,” the group said in a statement.
Israeli police allegedly removed the sign after they saw an activist filming the area on Thursday, a source told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
An Israeli army spokesperson did not deny to Haaretz that the sign had been put up, but maintained that Israeli forces do not use methods of collective punishment.
Obstructions were removed around midnight on Wednesday, although metal spikes were reportedly laid on roads the following morning around 7:00 a.m.
B’Tselem ordered Israeli authorities to remove the blocks immediately and allow residents to resume daily life.
Hizma is located in the Jerusalem-district of the occupied West Bank, and is cut off from annexed East Jerusalem by the separation wall to the town’s west, and separated from the rest of the West Bank by a chain of illegal Israeli settlements to the east.
Portions of the town’s land have been appropriated by Israel for construction of both the wall and settlement