Israel closes major checkpoint, deploys snipers, between Bethlehem and Jerusalem for three days

09:00 Oct 22 2015 Checkpoint 300, Bethlehem

Israel closes major checkpoint, deploys snipers, between Bethlehem and Jerusalem for three days
Israeli forces close a main road in Bethlehem where near-daily clashes have taken place since Oct .1. (MaanImages)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A major military checkpoint separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem was shut down Thursday morning in preparation for Jewish pilgrims to enter a religious site in the area.
The Israeli Civil Administration said in a statement that Checkpoint 300 would remain closed for three days, returning to normal operation on Monday morning.

The statement referred to the closure as a "security procedure" taken before thousands of “Jewish people are expected to flock to the nearby Rachel’s Tomb” to commemorate the anniversary of the biblical figure's death.

The site is surrounded on three sides by the Israeli separation wall despite being in the middle of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, and Israeli forces stationed around the holy site regularly clash with residents of the Aida refugee camp, bordered by the wall.

Locals said Israeli snipers had been deployed Thursday afternoon atop of buildings at Bethlehem City’s northern entrance near the separation wall surrounding the area.

On Wednesday Israeli forces uprooted olive and pine trees in the refugee camp, adjacent to Rachel's Tomb near Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, according to Palestinian official Fadi Zawahra.

Zawahra said that many of the trees -- over 30 years old -- were located in the camp cemetery, adding that Israeli forces have in the past cut down trees in the area, destroying graves in the process.
Near-daily clashes between Israeli military and Palestinian residents have broken out near the site this month, where two Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces, including a 13-year-old.

Thursday's closure of Checkpoint 300 will restrict the movement of thousands of Palestinians who use the military checkpoint to cross through to Israel every day.

The Civil Administration said that Palestinians who need to cross into Israel for work or other purposes would be allowed to cross through the tunnel checkpoint west of Bethlehem and Mazmouriya checkpoint east of Bethlehem.

Locals in Bethlehem said Israeli forces have placed concrete blocks near a main road in the city leading to the military checkpoint. Closure of the main road will likely create serious traffic problems in the city, locals added.
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