Jerusalem police were on high alert for the first Friday prayers of the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan, two days after four Israelis were shot dead by Palestinian terrorists at a Tel Aviv food market.
Thousands of police, Border Police and volunteer officers were patrolling the narrow and winding alleyways of the Old City as well as in the neighborhoods and villages of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, Israel National News said.
Police were bracing for disruptions at close of prayers on the flashpoint Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and said that they would act determinedly against anyone who attempted to breach the peace.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expected to attend Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa, despite new restrictions on movement announced after the deadly attack on Wednesday.
In an initial Israeli response to the Tel Aviv shooting, the Defense Ministry’s civil administration in the Palestinian territories, COGAT, said early Thursday that it had frozen 83,000 permits for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan. Special Ramadan permits were also suspended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to travel out of the territory to attend prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for West Bank Palestinians who had received advance permits, however, was unchanged.
The army also announced that it had deployed two additional battalions — comprising hundreds of troops from infantry and special forces units — to the West Bank.
The Israel Defense Forces said late Thursday that it was sealing off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the Shavuot holiday, with the closure beginning overnight Thursday-Friday and lasting until late Sunday night, when the one-day holiday ends.
“In accordance with government directives and the ongoing situation assessment, as of today crossing from the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) will be open to Palestinians only in medical and humanitarian cases,” an IDF spokesperson told AFP on Friday.
She said that the closure would remain in force until midnight Sunday.
While the move is among a slew of measures imposed in response to the deadly terror attack at the Sarona Market, the army generally seals off the West Bank on Jewish holidays.
Wednesday’s shooting, carried out by two West Bank Palestinians, was among the deadliest and most brazen attacks since violence erupted last October.
The two terrorists were named in Palestinian media reports as cousins Muhammad and Khalid Muhamra. One of the men was shot by a security guard after the attack and was seriously injured; the second was arrested by police and taken in for questioning. Both came from the West Bank town of Yatta, south of Hebron.
AFP contributed to this report
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