The Israeli army said Friday (Jun 10) that it was temporarily barring Palestinians from entering Israel, stepping up already tough restrictions announced after Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis in Tel Aviv.
An army spokeswoman told AFP that crossings to Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be closed for Palestinians in all but “medical and humanitarian cases”.
She said that the closure would remain in force until midnight Sunday.
A spokeswoman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that about 10,000 Palestinian permit-holders were exempt from the ban and were being allowed into Jerusalem for Muslim prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex marking the first Friday of Ramadan.
They would have to return home after worship, she said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Thursday and announced a slew of punitive and deterrent measures against Palestinians in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting in a popular Tel Aviv nightspot, the deadliest attack in a months-long wave of violence.
Among the measures, the government said it was revoking entry permits for more than 80,000 Palestinians to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan.
It also revoked work permits for 204 of the attackers’ relatives and the army blockaded their West Bank hometown of Yatta, with soldiers patrolling and stopping cars as they entered and exited.
The government also said it was sending two additional battalions – amounting to hundreds more troops – into the occupied West Bank.
ASSAILANTS’ BODIES HELD
Newly installed Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered that the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks would no longer be returned to their families for burial, a spokesman said.
The policy is backed by Israeli hawks as a deterrent measure.
Israel last closed its crossings for two days in May during its Remembrance Day and Independence Day commemorations.
A closure is often imposed over Jewish holidays, when large numbers of Israelis congregate to pray or celebrate, presenting a potential target for Palestinian attacks.
The start of April’s Passover festival saw this type of shutdown.
The closure announced Friday came as Israeli security forces deployed in Jerusalem, prepared for thousands of Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa.
“Thousands of police will be in and around the Old City of Jerusalem carrying out security measures,” a police statement said.
Violence since October has killed at least 207 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
Most of the Palestinians were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were killed in clashes with security forces or by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The violence has declined in recent weeks, though attacks have continued.