Israel announces West Bank, Gaza closure for Rosh Hashanah

Only ‘exceptional’ cases to be allowed into Israel as nation ushers in Jewish new year; police deploy reinforcements in Jerusalem

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers guarding a West Bank checkpoint, August 16, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers guarding a West Bank checkpoint, August 16, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The IDF announced on Tuesday that it will put in place a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, ahead of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which starts Wednesday evening.

The closure, a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays, is expected to last until midnight on Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.

Ordinarily, tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank enter Israel for work each day. A far smaller number of Gaza residents also travel to Israel, mostly to receive medical treatment.

According to the IDF, during the closure exceptions will be made for humanitarian and other outstanding cases, based on an assessment by the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration.

The Israel Police also announced on Tuesday that additional police officers would be stationed around the city of Jerusalem in order to keep the peace during the holiday.

The West Bank and Gaza closure is intended both to prevent attempts at terror attacks in Israel during the holiday period and to allow the Israeli security officials who operate the crossings to celebrate the festival.

The Jewish high holidays, of which Rosh Hashanah is the first, are generally seen by defense officials as a time period of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher.

The police said they would be focusing considerable attention on the Old City and the Western Wall, where thousands are expected to pray during the two-day holiday on Thursday and Friday, and the following Shabbat. However, additional officers will also be present throughout the city.

“Israel Police officers, border guards, reinforcements and volunteer officers will be spread around the city — in areas with large crowds, shopping centers and markets, around the Old City and in its alleyways, and around synagogues — in order to preserve the order and safety, to guard worshipers, and to direct traffic,” police said in a statement.

In addition, police announced that beginning on Wednesday private cars would not be able to enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, except for those belonging to residents.

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