Palestinians wait to cross through Kalandiya checkpoint into Israel, near Ramallah..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The West Bank and Gaza Strip will be completely sealed off for 11 days from the start of Sukkot through the following Shabbat, the Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday.
All crossings to the West Bank and Gaza will be closed to Palestinians beginning Wednesday, October 4, through Saturday, October 14, with the exception of humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases made with the approval of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
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 by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman 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.
The closure will affect tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day.
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.
During Passover in April the IDF closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for a week. The weeklong closure came shortly after 21-year-old Palestinian Malek Ahmad Mousa Hamed from Silwad rammed his car into two Israeli soldiers at a West Bank bus stop at the Ofra junction, killing 20-yearold Sgt. Elhai Teharlev and lightly wounding another.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip were also closed on Friday and Saturday for Yom Kippur and for Rosh Hashana last week.
Following the attack in Har Adar the IDF imposed a closure on the attacker’s village of Beit Saruk and neighboring villages.
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.”