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Army extends West Bank’s closure for Purim by a day

Palestinians will be barred from entering Israel until Tuesday, not Monday as previously announced by IDF

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

An Israeli soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the Beit El settlement on the outskirts of West Bank city of Ramallah, on a road linking Ramallah and Jerusalem on February 1, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
An Israeli soldier stands guard at a checkpoint near the Beit El settlement on the outskirts of West Bank city of Ramallah, on a road linking Ramallah and Jerusalem on February 1, 2016. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The military is extending the closure on the West Bank imposed for the Jewish festival of Purim by one more day, the IDF said on Saturday.

Border crossings were to open at midnight on Sunday, but would now only open midnight on Monday. The extension came at the request of political leaders following a briefing on the security situation, the army said.

Monday marks the end of the Purim holiday in Jerusalem. Most of the rest of the country celebrates Saturday night and Sunday.

In the original order West Bank Palestinians were barred from entering Israel from Friday to Sunday as a preventative measure against attacks during the holiday weekend.

Palestinians were forbidden from entering or exiting the West Bank with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” the IDF said last week.

Those special cases required the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories.

The closure affected the tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day, most of them in construction and maintenance.

Within the West Bank, however, Palestinians would be able to enter Jewish settlements to work during the closure, a spokesperson said.

The Jewish holiday of Purim is generally a festive, carnivalesque occasion, celebrated with costumes, parades and street parties in cities around Israel.

However, there is a history of violence on the holiday.

Last year the West Bank was also closed for Purim in light of the general security situation.

Elor Azaria, who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, arrives at the military court in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Elor Azaria, who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, arrives at the military court in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

During the festival, which fell on March 24, IDF soldier Elor Azaria shot and killed Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, minutes after Sharif and another man had carried out a stabbing attack on troops in Hebron, and as Sharif lay on the ground disarmed and bleeding, having been shot during the attack.

Azaria was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison, though both the defense and prosecution have appealed the sentence.

In 1996, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 13 Israelis, including five children, and wounded 130 more on the eve of Purim in central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center.

In 1994 on Purim, Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs. The extremist doctor mowed down the Muslim worshipers and wounded 125 others with automatic gunfire. Goldstein was overcome and bludgeoned to death by bystanders.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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