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Israel Abolishes Free Access for Arabs from the Territories

Free access into Israel for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip was abolished late Tuesday, by order of the Israel Defense Force and police.

For the first time in the 22 years since Israel took control of the territories, Arab residents will require individual permits to enter Israel for work or other reasons.

They may not stay in Israel overnight without special permission.

Arabs with records of criminal or security offenses will be permanently barred.

The new regulations took effect Tuesday night for the Gaza Strip, which is under a blanket curfew of indefinite duration.

The far-reaching policy change was spelled out by top officials Wednesday, in reports to the Knesset’s Legal Committee.

Shmuel Goren, coordinator of government policy in the territories, told the committee that all workers from Gaza have been ordered to leave Israel, return to their homes and stay indoors until further notice.

Goren and Deputy Police Commissioner Yehoshua Caspi said the restrictions will eventually apply to the West Bank, although given the many more crossing points into Israel, different arrangements would have to be worked out.

Committee Chairman Uriel Lynn of Likud said persons with criminal records would not be allowed into Israel and that the others would require permits to enter and work.

Permits to sleep over would be needed as well. That rule has existed for some time, but has been only erratically enforced.

PROPOSAL TO SEAL OFF TERRITORIES

Meanwhile, the IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, proposed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the territories be sealed off for several months as a form of economic sanction and deterrence.

Some 100,000 Palestinians with jobs in Israel would be deprived of their livelihood under the plan.

Police Superintendent David Kraus gave orders Tuesday to arrest any Gaza resident found in Israel after the IDF’s public proclamation of the new regulations Tuesday.

Thousands of them arrived at the Erez checkpoint, south of Ashkelon, where soldiers channeled them to special buses.

Vehicular traffic was allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, but not to leave. Jewish settlers came and went as they pleased.

The government is making no secret of its harsher policies and is assuming that most Israelis welcome them.

In a rare decision, the IDF allowed an Israeli television crew to accompany soldiers before dawn Tuesday on a pre-emptive raid on Si’ir village, near Hebron.

The film, broadcast Tuesday night, showed dozens of young men arrested in their beds, blindfolded, handcuffed and shoved aboard buses to jail. There was no resistance.

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