Israel to close off West Bank, Gaza for Yom Kippur
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Israel to close off West Bank, Gaza for Yom Kippur

Palestinians also barred from entering settlements during Day of Atonement; exceptions to be made for 'humanitarian' reasons

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: Border Police officers guard a checkpoint in the West Bank on January 26, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Illustrative: Border Police officers guard a checkpoint in the West Bank on January 26, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The IDF announced on Thursday that it will put in place a closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, ahead of the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which starts Friday evening.

The closure is expected to last until midnight on Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.

The closure is a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays. However, in a less common move, the military also announced that Palestinian workers would be barred from entering Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a measure that is not normally taken during closures. The army said special permission may be granted in some cases.

This additional restriction is likely tied to a terror attack on Tuesday morning, in which a Palestinian gunman hid among a group of laborers waiting to enter the Har Adar settlement, outside Jerusalem. When he was called to stop, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, killing three security officers and wounding a fourth.

In addition, the Jewish high holiday season, which began last week with Rosh Hashanah, is generally seen by defense officials as a time period of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher.

Ordinarily, tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank enter Israel and Israeli settlements 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 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.

A similar closure was imposed last week for Rosh Hashanah.

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