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IDF closes off West Bank for Purim holiday

In dramatic but not unprecedented move, Palestinians barred from entering Israel except for special cases, army says

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)

Israel will close off the West Bank from Wednesday to Saturday as a preventative measure against attacks during the Jewish holiday of Purim, the IDF announced on Tuesday.

The closure will begin at 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday and is expected to end at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, 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.

Last year, the West Bank was not closed off for the Purim holiday. The decision was made this year in light of “a directive from the political leadership” and following a situational assessment, the army said.

Though a dramatic move, it isn’t the first time during the ongoing terror wave that the army has closed off the West Bank. For Yom Kippur, the IDF also closed off the West Bank for one day.

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.

“At this point there are no changes within the West Bank. The stringencies will only apply to the entrance to and exit from the area,” she said.

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

In the nearly six months of Palestinian terrorism and violence since October, 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed. Nearly 190 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

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