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IDF shutters West Bank, Gaza crossings to Palestinians on last days of Passover

Worshipers to still be allowed into Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, subject to existing restrictions; officials to reconvene to determine exact hour closure ends

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Palestinians make their way through the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, to attend Friday Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Temple Mount, on April 8, 2022. (Flash90)
Palestinians make their way through the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, to attend Friday Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Temple Mount, on April 8, 2022. (Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday announced the closure of crossings from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Palestinians for the final days of the Passover holiday.

The closure began Thursday at 5 p.m., and will remain in effect until Saturday, April 23, at an hour yet to be determined.

Palestinian worshipers will still be allowed to enter Israel for Friday Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem, subject to existing restrictions, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians said.

The border crossings for Palestinians are set to reopen “subject to a situational assessment and in accordance with the usual operating hours,” the IDF said.

Exceptions will be made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases, but will require the approval of the liaison, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Such closures are standard practice during Jewish festivals and holidays. The military says they are a preventative measure against attacks in periods of increased tension.

IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank on April 20, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

A closure was imposed during the first day of Passover but was not extended over the entire holiday, and during the holiday of Purim in March the military skipped it altogether for the first time in five years.

Recently, security forces have ramped up operations as 14 people were killed in a series of terror attacks carried out by Arab Israelis and Palestinians.

Troops have been carrying out extensive raids in the West Bank in response to the attacks, with at least 17 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Attendance at Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque is limited to women, children and men over 50, as per Defense Ministry orders issued earlier this month.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City Friday, April 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Temple Mount, which houses the mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism, is a frequent flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian tensions, including earlier Wednesday and over the past week.

Similar unrest surrounding Ramadan last May led Hamas to fire rockets toward Jerusalem, setting the stage for 11 days of combat between Israel and the terror group that also sparked widespread Jewish-Arab violence in mixed cities.

The tensions this year have already sparked a minor flareup in the south, with a rocket fired from Gaza on Monday night and intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system — the first launch from the strip in four months. Israel hit Hamas targets in Gaza hours later in response.

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