Army announces 9-day closure of West Bank, Gaza for Passover
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Army announces 9-day closure of West Bank, Gaza for Passover

Checkpoints, crossing to remain shuttered from Friday morning to end of week-long holiday, as military braces for Gaza border riots and West Bank unrest

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli Border Police officers guard the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem on March 27, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Border Police officers guard the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem on March 27, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The army on Wednesday announced it would impose a nine-day closure on the West Bank and Gaza for the entirety of the Passover holiday, beginning on Friday.

The crossings into the West Bank and Gaza will be closed beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday until the following Saturday, April 7, at midnight, the military said.

During the closure, the military will allow the passage of Palestinians in “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases, with the approval of the [Defense Ministry’s] Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories,” according to an army statement.

Ordinarily, tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank enter Israel and Israeli settlements for work each day. A far smaller number of Gaza residents also travel to Israel, mostly to receive medical treatment.

Closures for Jewish and Israeli holidays are a routine procedure, intended both to prevent terror attack attempts in Israel during the holiday period and to allow the Israeli security officials who operate the crossings to celebrate the festival.

The announced closure comes amid a period of heightened tensions in the West Bank and Gaza as Palestinians prepare to launch a six-week-long “March of Return,” beginning on Friday with Land Day, a commemoration of a mass expropriation by the Israeli government of Arab land in the Galilee in 1976 and the ensuing protests in which six Arab Israeli demonstrators were killed.

Military officials have said they expect to see an increase in violence in these coming weeks — a historically tense period — due to a convergence of events culminating in mid-May when Palestinians will mark the so-called “catastrophe” of Israel creation with Nakba Day, the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

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