Israeli-Arabs allowed to enter previously off-limits West Bank towns

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 |  staff writer

For the first time since the Palestinian uprising in 2000, nearly 200 Israeli-Arabs were allowed to enter the city of Jenin on Monday to visit their relatives and to shop due to the dismantling of certain checkpoints in the area.

The move was part of an Israeli army plan to ease restrictions for Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley and was created following a series of meetings between regional IDF commanders, Palestinian security officials and other Palestinian Authority senior officials.

Israel will issue 40 percent more permits to Palestinian workers coming to Israel and 500 permits will be issued for senior Palestinian businessmen.

Before the Jenin checkpoint was opened, Palestinian security forces were deployed in the city in an American-backed campaign to show that Palestinians can rein in terrorists, an Israeli demand for Palestinian statehood.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who visited Jenin on Monday, to meet with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, described the transformation of the city as “miraculous.”

“It is something that resembles a miracle ...Two years ago it was impossible for a European envoy to meet with the Palestinian prime minister in Jenin. The situation is very different today than it used to be two years ago.”

Though Israeli-Arabs now have the freedom to cross into the Palestinian territories, the Israeli army is beefing up its security by placing tighter restrictions on those entering and exiting the city.

Since many terrorists have come from Jenin, males under 18 years old are barred from entering Jenin and all travelers must leave by nightfall. Jenin is close to many Arab-Israeli villages as well as major Israeli cities like Afula and Nazareth.

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