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Israel closes West Bank, Gaza borders for Jewish holiday

Sept. 19, 2017 9:05 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2017 1:45 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities will implement a closure on the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip beginning Tuesday night for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year on Wednesday.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said that a general closure would be imposed on the occupied West Bank and Gaza’s crossings starting midnight Tuesday night, to reopen midnight Saturday night.

She said that only “humanitarian, medical, and exceptionally urgent cases” would only be allowed to cross during the closure.

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry agency responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, confirmed the closures and announced additional restrictions on Palestinian movement in the coming weeks.

The Erez crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel will be closed periodically starting Sept. 20-23, as well as Sep. 29-30, Oct. 5-7, and Oct. 12-14, COGAT said. It remained unclear if all the dates would also apply to West Bank border crossings with Israel.

Al-Samri had also announced that heightened security measures would be imposed in occupied East Jerusalem.

“Israeli police, border guards, and volunteers will be heavily deployed across Jerusalem City and its surroundings, inside the Old City and towns, where both Palestinians and Israelis live, on Rosh Hashanah eve,” she wrote in an Arabic-language statement.

She said that Israeli forces will also be deployed at “holy sites and tension points,” as police operations around Jerusalem’s Old City would be “enhanced and increased Sept. 20-23.

“Roads leading to the Old City from Jaffa Gate would be closed to private vehicles on Jewish New Year’s Eve, except for residents of the area,” she added.

The closures come as Muslims prepared to celebrate the Muslim New Year, 1439 Hijra, on Thursday, with worship and prayers planned at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City.

Severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians are typically implemented by Israeli authorities during Jewish holidays for alleged security purposes, accompanied by increased tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The Palestinian Authority's Wafa news agency reported Tuesday that Israeli settler groups have called on their members to step up provocative visits inside the compound during the upcoming holidays.

Israel's imposition of closures on the Palestinian territory has severely affected the livelihoods of Palestinians who depend on entering Israel, or its illegal settlements, for employment opportunities, medical care, other reasons. Such policies have been strongly criticized by rights groups for amounting to collective punishment.
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