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Army to seal off West Bank for Purim

Palestinians will be barred from entering Israel from Friday to Sunday except for special cases, IDF says

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

Israeli security forces guard at the Qalandiya Checkpoint near Ramallah on July 26, 2016. (Flash90)
Israeli security forces guard at the Qalandiya Checkpoint near Ramallah on July 26, 2016. (Flash90)

Israel will close off the West Bank from Friday until Sunday as a preventative measure against attacks during the Jewish festival of Purim, the IDF announced on Thursday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman instructed the army to impose the closure from 12:01 a.m. on Friday until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, the army said.

Entering and exiting the West Bank will be forbidden for Palestinians during those three days, with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” according to an IDF statement.

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

The crossings will not be closed on Monday, when Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem.

The closure will affect 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 will be able to enter Jewish settlements to work during the closure, a spokesperson said.

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

IDF soldier Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)
IDF soldier Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)

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.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a central feature of the controversial school trips to Hebron. (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)
The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

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.

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

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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