Police forces were deployed across Israel and were taking all measures necessary to ensure public safety for the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur and the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said Friday.
The Yom Kippur fast began Friday at sunset, and ends Saturday at nightfall.
Danino said that police expected the public to respect the religious customs of all communities, adding that the police would crack down on anyone who attempts to harm worshipers of any faith.
The two important religious festivals coincide for the first time in three decades, and Israel tightened security in flash-point mixed Jewish-Muslim areas to ward off possible unrest.
The security measures came after the arrest of two Palestinians in the northern West Bank Thursday when Israeli forces discovered them carrying three pipe bombs and other weapons, raising fears they may have been planning a terror attack.
The Yom Kippur holiday is followed on Saturday by the Muslim Eid al-Adha.
Ahead of the holy days, against a backdrop of high tension over the summer’s seven-week Israel-Hamas war, the IDF implemented a general closure of the West Bank and Gaza. The closure will last until Saturday night. Palestinians will only be allowed into Israel for humanitarian reasons or for emergencies.
Israeli security forces deployed additional personnel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron.
Public transportation halted across the country ahead of Yom Kippur. Israel Railways terminated all train operations from 2 p.m. Friday until 11:15 p.m. Saturday. Buses were not running either and officials at Ben Gurion Airport said no flights would take off from, or land at, the site from 3 p.m. Friday until after the holiday. A flight that had been delayed in London was permitted to land at the airport on 3:15 p.m. Friday.
Authorities came to agreements with the Jewish and Muslim communities in mixed Israeli cities on the timing of celebrations.
The clash of festivals has not occurred for 33 years, because the two faiths use different lunar calendars.
In East Jerusalem, additional police officers were deployed around the flash-point al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
The site — the third holiest place in Islam, and the holiest in Judaism — is the scene of frequent confrontations between police and stone-throwing Palestinian youths.
Israeli security forces control access to the site, and will allow Muslims to enter on Saturday for dawn prayers, Samri said.
In the city of Hebron, which sees daily confrontations between Jewish settlers and Palestinians — or between Palestinians and police — soldiers will be manning dozens of checkpoints.
In Acre, which saw riots on Yom Kippur in 2008 when an Arab resident drove through an observant Jewish neighborhood blaring music from his car stereo, local Muslim official Abbas Zakur said an agreement had been reached between the two communities on the timing of celebrations. Muslims would celebrate and feast on Sunday, but from Saturday small electric cars will be provided for those wishing to go to the mosque to pray.
In other cities, including the mixed neighborhood of Jaffa in Greater Tel Aviv, Muslim celebrations will be permitted from Saturday evening, just as the Jewish fast is due to end, Samri said.