Palestinians cross an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
(photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)
The full military closure of the West Bank will be eased due to demand by Israeli companies, government ministries and public institutions for Palestinians workers.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot held a security assessment Thursday evening after which they ordered the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to assess entry requests based on the market's requirements.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip were to be completely sealed off for 11 days from the start of Sukkot (Oct. 4) through the following Shabbat (Oct. 14), with the exception of humanitarian cases.
Israel regularly imposes closures on the West Bank and Gaza for Jewish holidays, but weeklong festivals like Sukkot usually have closures imposed only at the end of the holiday.
The rare move was approved following a deadly shooting attack
in the West Bank settlement of Har Adar last week where three Israelis – a Border Police officer and two civilian security guards – were killed by Palestinian Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, who had a permit to work in settlements.
According to Channel 2 news, the army initially opposed Liberman’s decision but changed its mind after pressure by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan following the Har Adar attack. An IDF official confirmed that the closure would be for 11 days but stressed that it had not yet been finalized and could change, depending on future situational assessments.
Security forces regularly step up their preparedness prior to the holidays, regularly imposing closures on the West Bank, as there is often an uptick in tensions and violence.
Israeli NGO B’Tselem called the closure an act of “collective punishment” on tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians.
“Disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of people who have done nothing wrong and are not suspected of any wronging in such a severe manner is completely unjustifiable,” the group said in a statement.
“This violence against the population is an exploitation of the military’s power and authority in aid of wanton abuse of civilians without any accountability.”