Israel closes West Bank and Gaza crossings for 11 days

Palestinians prevented from crossing into Israel until 15 October, except in emergencies


Crossings between Israel and the West Bank were shut for 11 days beginning on Tuesday night, one of the longest closures in years.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided on a prolonged closure throughout the entire festival of Sukkot and the Shabbat that follows it, lasting until midnight on 15 October.

The move is in response to an attack at the Har Adar settlement last week in which 3 Israeli security personnel were killed.

Crossings between Israel and the Gaza strip are also affected. Palestinians will not be able to cross into Israel during the shutdown except in “humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases”.

Border closures over the High Holidays and other Jewish festivals are routine, but are usually much shorter.

But with the shutdown covering only three full working days in Israel and the Palestinian focus being on reconciliation events in Gaza, there was a largely muted reaction from Palestinians and Israeli opposition parties.

However, it disclosed wariness within Israel’s security establishment that a period of instability might be beginning in the twilight of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rule.

Israeli police commanders and the IDF have disagreed in recent weeks over how long they should last, with the military advocating shorter closures.

A member of Israel’s security cabinet said Mr Lieberman had this week reversed his recent policy of accepting the military’s recommendations on border closures.

“Over the last year since his appointment, Lieberman has nearly always gone along with (chief of staff) Eisenkot,” said the minister.

The IDF has largely allowed Palestinians to cross into Israel for work in recent years, believing it is a policy that provides a major source of income for the Palestinian economy and prevents violence from spreading to wider parts of society.

The Har Adar incident last week was only the second time in 400 attacks that the perpetrator had held a permit to work in Israel or on an Israeli settlement.

But the attack also swayed the debate on the border closure and the generals are understood to have changed their position reluctantly, accepting the police recommendation and taking Mr Lieberman along with them.

In an interview with Walla News this week, Mr Lieberman sought to allay fears of dwindling security situation, saying that Israel coordinated security with the Palestinian Authority “both at the field and higher levels and we don’t have to take every statement by Abbas too seriously.”

However, the sight on Monday of the Palestinian Authority’s security chiefs sitting together with Hamas leaders in Gaza would have been a sobering one for their Israeli counterparts.

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