Israel blocks off Gaza and West Bank for Passover
The Israeli government regularly closes off access to Israel for Palestinians during major Jewish religious festivals
Israel has announced the closure of all points of entry between the occupied West Bank, the Gaza strip, and Israeli territory on Friday and Saturday for the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Tensions are high in Israel following a wave of violence that has killed 201 Palestinians and 28 Israelis since October.
The blockade was decided after “an evaluation of the security situation”, a military spokesperson told AFP without giving specifics.
The Israeli government regularly closes off access to Israel for Palestinians during major Jewish religious festivals, though exceptions will be made for humanitarian and medical cases, the spokesperson added.
Thousands of Jewish pilgrims flock to Jerusalem and other holy sites during the eight-day holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt in Biblical times.
“As Passover approaches, all sorts of extremists will spread lies about our policy concerning the Temple Mount,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, referring to a historical site in Jerusalem considered sacred by Jews, Muslims and Christians.
“We will act against these provocateurs by deploying security reinforcements in areas of friction,” he said.
Most of the Palestinians killed in recent months were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Earlier this week a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem wounded 20 people, with Israel blaming Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Many analysts say Palestinian frustration with Israeli occupation and settlement-building in the West Bank, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership have fed the recent unrest.
Israel blames incitement by Palestinian leaders and media as one of the main causes of the violence.