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Israel reopens West Bank crossings; Gaza to remain shut ‘until further notice’

Closures, initially imposed over Memorial and Independence Days, were extended after deadly Elad attack; IDF bars residents of Rummanah, hometown of attackers, from entering Israel

Illustrative: Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint, outside of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on April 15, 2022. (Flash90)

Israel announced late Sunday that it would end the closure on crossings with the West Bank, but the main passage from the Gaza Strip would remain shut “until further notice.”

Israel largely shuttered crossings for Palestinians into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Authorities later extended the shutdown following the Elad attack, in which two Palestinian suspects killed three Israelis and wounded several others in an axe and knife attack.

“Following an assessment of the security situation, it has been decided this evening (Sunday) to open the crossings in the Judea and Samaria area, except for residents of the village of Rummanah — where the terrorists who committed the terror attack in Elad lived — in the Jenin district,” said a statement from COGAT, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians.

The statement said that “until further notice, the Erez Crossing will remain closed to passage for residents of the Gaza Strip.”

However, it noted that “passage will be permitted only in humanitarian, medical, and exceptional cases and subject to approval from the head of COGAT.”

The situation will be reassessed later in the week, the statement said.

Palestinian workers are seen at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, as they wait to enter Israel for work, on March 13, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The shutdown in the West Bank had only applied to Palestinians. Checkpoints used by Israelis and foreign nationals to enter and exit the West Bank remained open as usual.

Most of the Palestinians impacted are those who hold permits to work in Israel. About 140,000 West Bank Palestinians work in Israel and in Israeli settlements. Another 20,000 Palestinians from Gaza hold permits to work in Israel.

On Thursday, two Palestinians hacked three Israelis to death with axes in Elad, a majority ultra-Orthodox city in central Israel, Israeli officials said. Police apprehended them earlier Sunday after a long manhunt.

As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Sbeihat, 20, were arrested Sunday morning in a forested area near the central Israeli city of Elad, about a kilometer from the scene of the attack.

Security forces detain two Palestinians, allegedly behind a deadly terror attack, near the central city of Elad on May 8, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Al-Rifa’i confessed to security forces that he committed the axe attack with Sbeihat, killing Oren Ben Yiftah, a 35-year-old driver from Lod, and Elad residents Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol, both in their 40s.

The Israeli military said Sunday that troops were operating in Rummanah, the hometown of two suspects, in order to map out their residences ahead of a potential demolition.

Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as a matter of policy. The efficacy of the policy has been hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.

Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 19 dead since March 22.

Police and paramedics are seen at the scene of a deadly terror attack in the central city of Elad on May 5, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Israeli army stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that left at least 27 Palestinians dead since mid-March. Many of those took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been civilians.

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