Monday 26 June 2017

Israel scraps travel visas for 80,000 Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AP

Ronald Crowther

The Israeli military has revoked permits for more than 80,000 Palestinians to visit Israel during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan after a Palestinian shooting attack that killed four Israelis in Tel Aviv.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault by two Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday in a trendy restaurant complex near Israel's defence ministry, but Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups were quick to praise it.

The assailants came from near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They dressed in suits and ties and posed as customers at an upmarket restaurant before pulling out automatic weapons and opening fire, sending diners fleeing in panic.

Wounded

Both were apprehended, with one wounded in the incident, which followed a lull in recent weeks.

The attack, as families were enjoying a balmy evening out at the open-air Sarona complex, was the deadliest in the country's business and entertainment capital since a wave of Palestinian violence erupted in October last year.

After security consultations overseen by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the military said it was rescinding some 83,000 permits issued to Palestinians from the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan.

Such measures, including restrictions on access to the Aqsa Mosque compound, the holy site in the heart of the Old City that Jews refer to as Temple Mount, have in the past led to increased tension with the Palestinians.

After the Tel Aviv attack, in which police said four Israelis - two men and two women - were killed and six were wounded, fireworks were set off in parts of the West Bank. In some refugee camps, people sang, chanted and waved flags.

During the recent wave of violence, Israel's government has repeatedly criticised Palestinian factions for inciting attacks or not doing enough to quell them.

Netanyahu visited the scene minutes after arriving back from a two-day visit to Moscow. He described the attacks as "cold-blooded murder" and vowed retaliation.

"We held a consultation about a series of offensive and defensive measures that we will implement," he said. "We will locate anyone who cooperated with this attack and we will act firmly and intelligently to fight terrorism."

Since October last year, 32 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens have been killed by Palestinians. Israeli forces have shot dead at least 196 Palestinians, 134 of whom Israel has said were assailants. Others were killed in clashes and protests.

Irish Independent

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