Ma'an News Agency
March 22, 2011 - 12:00am

Israeli forces re-entered the northern West Bank village of Awarta at sunrise Tuesday, announcing via loudspeaker that the community was under curfew the for a second time this month.

The village had been under a military curfew from March 12-16 as Israeli police, military and intelligence forces searched the area for evidence relating to the murder of five settlers in the adjacent illegal settlement Itamar.

An as yet unknown attacker or attackers stabbed five members of the Fogel family, including two children and a baby. Israeli leaders immediately blamed Palestinian militant groups, and put a total gag order on the investigation for the Israeli press.

A military spokeswoman confirmed that there was a curfew in place, but said she could not disclose how long it would remain on the village. She said the search was in relation on the ongoing investigation into the Itamar murders, and that troops were trying not to disrupt normal life in the village.

Head of the Awarta village council Qays Awwad told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli forces entered the town and set up checkpoints at all of its entrances.

Villagers were told they were prohibited to leave their homes and enter the streets.

"So far, we have not been informed about the motive behind the incursion," the Awwad said.

The last closure of the village prevented patients in need of medical treatment from getting to hospital. Villagers reported that at least two children suffered bites from sniffer dogs. Teenagers sustained broken bones after attempting to stave off an attack by settlers who marched into the village and threw rocks and bottles at homes.

Although militant groups in the West Bank have denied involvement in the murders, accusations by Israeli officials sparked a string of settler attacks against Palestinian civilians.

On Monday, one settler in the southern West Bank opened fire on a funeral procession in Beit Ummar, injuring one man critically and hospitalizing a second with a gunshot wound to the thigh.

Further south, a settler from the Ma'on outpost stabbed a Palestinian man on a donkey en route to a local clinic for treatment.

Two Palestinians were stabbed earlier in the week as they went to work in the industrial area of the Shilo settlement.

Dozens of acts of vandalism and harassment have also been reported.


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