Israel to close West Bank, Gaza during upcoming holidays

Army announces all checkpoints, crossings will be shuttered on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, except for humanitarian cases

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

Illustrative: Border Police officers stand at a checkpoint near Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs on January 19, 2018. (Border Police)
Illustrative: Border Police officers stand at a checkpoint near Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs on January 19, 2018. (Border Police)

The Israeli military announced that it will close the crossings and checkpoints into the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, as it does nearly every year.

Closures for Jewish and Israeli holidays are a routine procedure, intended both to prevent terror attack attempts in Israel during the holiday period and to allow the Israeli security officials who operate the crossings to celebrate the festival.

The Rosh Hashanah closure will begin on Saturday at midnight and last until 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 12, the army said. The Jewish new year holiday begins on Sunday evening and lasts through Tuesday night.

In addition, the Erez Crossing into the Gaza Strip, which has been closed since Wednesday due to a riot on the Palestinian side of the facility the day before, will remain shuttered as a punitive measure until next Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Tuesday.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone toward Israeli forces during clashes in the northern Gaza Strip near the Erez border crossing with Israel on September 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

“After the vandalism incident we witnessed this past Tuesday, I have decided that the Erez Crossing will remain closed until next Thursday [September 13]. This is also how I will act if similar incidents occur in the future,” Liberman wrote in an Arabic-language Facebook post.

Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis out of humanitarian and medical considerations by Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The Yom Kippur closure was scheduled to begin at midnight on Monday, September 17, and end at midnight on September 19.

The closure for the week-long Sukkot festival will begin on September 22 at midnight. It will continue for the full week in the Gaza Strip, ending on October 1 at midnight.

In the West Bank, however, the crossings and checkpoints will re-open for the intermediary days — known as chol hamoed — from September 25 to 28.

Palestinian construction workers from the West Bank village of Abadiya, during their coffee break at a house under renovation in the Jewish settlement of Alon, south of Jerusalem, on February 16, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The West Bank’s industrial areas will not be affected by the closure and will remain open throughout the holiday season, the army said.

The military said all of the closures and reopenings will be contingent upon a security assessment.

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.

The closures come amid a period of increased tension in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Gaza had seen a surge of violence since the start of the “March of Return” protests along the border in March. The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.

Since the protests began in March, over at least 125 protesters have been killed by Israeli fire, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to throw stones at Israeli forces during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

During the demonstrations, protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Though the situation in Gaza has calmed somewhat in recent weeks, the border riots have continued and the efforts to reach a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have yet to yield concrete results.

The past few weeks in the West Bank have seen a number of attacks in or near Israeli settlements, including one on Monday in which a Palestinian man was shot dead as he approached a group of IDF soldiers while he was armed with a knife.

Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: