RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Authority officials criticized Israel's decision to close the West Bank Monday, saying that as the Jewish faithful celebrated the Passover "holiday of freedom," it was wrong to restrict the freedom of Palestinians.
"Freedom should be a value that every human being believes in and prays for, and not only a nice holiday name. Palestinians will continue to pave their way for freedom, which we hope it will become closer in September this year," a spokesman for the Palestinian Government Media Center said in a statement.
During the Passover holiday, Jews commemorate the exodus from Egypt, when the Jewish people are said by the Hebrew Scriptures to have been freed from slavery.
Israel's Ministry of Defense issued the orders to put the West Bank under lockdown for 10 days less than 12 hours in advance of the closure, prompting the PA to stress that "while Israelis celebrate their holidays, Palestinian Christians face restrictions on their freedom of movement and right to worship."
Along with the West Bank closure, which will see all those holding regular permits to enter Israel and Jerusalem barred from access, Israel's police have raised the alert level nationwide, while the army division deployed around Gaza says it is "ready for every scenario."
"Thousands of police have been deployed across the whole country, and particularly in the Jerusalem region," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, noting no specific threats had been perceived.
Surveillance of synagogues, markets, stations, commercial centres and national parks, which tend to attract throngs of visitors during the Passover holiday, was being stepped up.
Police were also strengthening their deployment inside Jerusalem's Old City to ensure the protection of crowds of Christian pilgrims in town to celebrate Easter, Rosenfeld said.
Christian worshipers were concerned that despite the limited issuance of special access permits for pilgrims from the West Bank, they would not have free movement to worship sites.