Israel will allow Christian Palestinians into Jerusalem for the Easter holiday next week, the army said, despite a general, week-long closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that began at 12 a.m. on Monday.
As it does for almost all major Jewish holidays, the IDF announced last week that it would be shutting down the crossings in the West Bank and Gaza for the duration of the Passover holiday.
The closure is expected to remain in place until 12 a.m. on April 17, subject to a security assessment, the army said.
Entering and exiting the West Bank and Gaza will be forbidden for Palestinians during that week, with the exception of “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases,” according to an IDF statement.
According to the IDF, included in those “exceptional cases” will be Christian Palestinians who want to enter Jerusalem in order to celebrate Easter, which coincides with the final days of Passover, the army said.
Those Christian Palestinians looking to enter Jerusalem require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories.
The closure will affect the tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day, most of them in construction and maintenance.
Last month, the head of the Shin Bet security service warned lawmakers that terror groups may try to carry out attacks during the Passover holiday.
“We are just before the Passover holiday, and there is no doubt that terrorist infrastructures, mostly the established one, and specifically Hamas, will try to agitate the area and carry out attacks,” Nadav Argaman told the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“Our goal, of course, is to ensure quiet holidays for every citizen of the State of Israel,” he added.
Israel’s security forces regularly warn that holidays serve as opportunities for terrorist groups to conduct attacks. The Israel Defense Forces raised such concerns ahead of Passover last year as well.
The closure was announced a day after a Palestinian rammed his car into two Israeli soldiers, killing one, at a West Bank checkpoint. On Thursday morning, a Silwad resident, 21-year-old Malek Ahmad Mousa Hamed, drove his car into the soldiers at the nearby Ofra Junction. Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, 20, was killed and another soldier was lightly wounded.
The past year saw the continuation of a “wave of terror” that began in the fall of 2015. Though a marked drop has been recorded by security officials in recent months, 41 Israelis, two Americans, a Palestinian and an Eritrean national have been killed in the spate of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks that began a year and a half ago.
According to AFP figures, some 250 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant have also been killed, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks.
The spate of Palestinian attacks that began in October 2015 was dubbed the “lone wolf” intifada, as many of the attacks were carried out by individuals who were not connected to any terror group.
However, Argaman said last month, that calm, and security forces’ successes thus far, are deceptive.
“I have to say that the quiet we have been experiencing since 2016 — this comparative quiet — is a misleading quiet, it deceives and intoxicates, and this is for one simple reason: The terrorist infrastructures of Hamas and the global jihad are working every day to carry out terror attacks within the State of Israel,” he said.