Another Jewish holiday – Passover – another general closure of the West Bank

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced Monday evening that there would be a long general closure on the West Bank at midnight — and it will last 12 days, until midnight on Saturday 18 April — in accordance with security assessments, of course.

This general closure is going into effect two days ahead of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Pesach.

Haaretz reported that the IDF said in a communique that “it regarded the holiday, which begins on Wednesday evening, as a highly sensitive time”. The Haaretz report can be read in full here .

UPDATE: the IDF’s email announcement of this closure has just landed in the email inbox — after it was already published in Haaretz — and it adds that “The closure has no effect on the movement of journalists, who are reminded to ensure that their GPO credentials, passports and visas are valid. Media personnel with Israeli or dual citizenship are required to sign release forms prior to visiting the A areas and are encouraged to coordinate their passage in advance with the IDF Spokesperson’s News Desk”.

Maan News agency reported Monday evening that “Israel plans to deploy mass police forces in and around Jerusalem on Wednesday ahead of a traditional public prayer for the Jewish holiday of Passover. Police will be deployed in the Old City near the Western Wall and in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Hundreds of police and border guards will also be stationed on roads leading into the city and elsewhere”. The Maan report is posted here.

Separately, Maan reported that the Allenby Bridge — the only crossing that Palestinians can use to go from the West Bank to the outside world, via Jordan — will be closed for 24 hours starting at 10am on Wednesday. The Allenby bridge is scheduled to repoen 24 hours later, at 10am on Thursday. This report is posted here.

LATER UPDATE: Haaretz later reported on Wednesday 8 April that the Sheikh Hussein Bridge Terminal between Israel and Jordan is expected to close early, at 8 P.M, and that “Passengers intending to use the terminal from either side are requested to arrive by 7 P.M. at the latest”.  And, Haaretz also reported,
“Beginning on Passover Eve tonight, security will be raised to Level 3, the second-highest level … thousands of police officers will be deployed in major population centers and on the roads. Stationary and ‘flying’ checkpoints will be set up at the entrances to cities”.  According to the Haaretz report, “Security forces throughout Israel will be put on high alert and synagogues will be guarded by Civil Guard volunteers during Pesach.  Police officials say the motivation of terror organizations to carry out an attack during the holiday is ‘on the rise’.  Law enforcement officials pointed to numerous foiled and sucessful attacks in recent weeks, including the attempt to run over soldiers in East Jerusalem Tuesday, the car bomb discovered near a Haifa mall late last month, the murder of Shlomo Nativ in the Bat Ayin settlement and the attempted shooting at a Border Police base in the Negev, both last week. They said the trend is expected to last for at least several weeks”.Also Wednesday, the security office of the the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem sent out a recommendation “that all Americans exercise extra vigilance and avoid large crowds during the upcoming religious holidays [April 8th to 15th for Passover, and April 12th and 19th for Easter], particularly in and around Jerusalem’s Old City.  Large crowds can be expected, with a correspondingly heavy police presence continuing throughout this and next week.  Additionally, significant traffic congestion and delays around the Old City should be expected during the next few weeks:  use alternate or bypass routes whenever possible”.

Meanwhile, the IDF has announced “Free Movement for Christians to Holy Sites during the Easter Holiday Period”.

In an email sent around to journalists, the IDF said that “The IDF and the Civil Administration, under the directive of the Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, began implementing a series of goodwill measures in order to allow freedom of religious practice for resident and visiting Christians in Israel and the Judea and Samara regions during the Easter holiday. These measures were initiated on April 1st and will continue to be in effect until May 15th. [The Pope is visiting the region in May.] The goodwill measures include approval for the unlimited entrance of Palestinian Christians from Judea and Samaria into Israel for participation in religious ceremonies and family visits during the holiday. At this stage, the Civil Administration has already issued close to 10,000 permits for this purpose solely in the Bethlehem district. In addition, the IDF has approved streamlined procedures for the entry of worshippers, organized tours, religious workers and media personnel into Bethlehem and Jericho. In 2008 a record number of approximately 1,300,000 tourists visited Bethlehem. In order to further the common Israeli-Palestinian interest, the Civil Administration and the IDF are implementing different measures to promote tourism in Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities in the Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank] region.

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