Israel won't enforce a curfew in Gaza and the West Bank during the Purim holiday for the first time in five years.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced the decision on Wednesday, citing the fact that Purim starts on Wednesday, a day of relatively light traffic at checkpoints since most Palestinian workers have already crossed into Israel. The other reported reason is to avoid economic losses by closing the checkpoint on a business day.
The decision, made public following a security assessment, comes after the government announced a series of moves aimed at easing the lives of Palestinians from the West Bank working in Israel. Israel also plans to remove bureaucratic barriers to those seeking jobs within the country.
Over the last several years, Israel imposed a curfew on the West Bank during Passover, Purim and the fall holidays, barring Palestinians from crossing checkpoints except in the case of humanitarian emergencies.
Senior Israeli army officials hailed the security coordination with Palestinian security bodies as effective and greatly improved.
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Since the current government was established, Gantz has taken several steps to ease conditions for the Palestinian economy. Last week the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced an additional 2,000 work permits in Israel for Gaza residents, raising the total current number to 12,000. In addition, a further increase of the quota to 20,000 is also being considered.
In another step to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, Israel registered 4,000 Palestinians in the Palestinian population registry for the first time in a decade. This move allows those Palestinians to hold a Palestinian ID card and move more freely around the West Bank.
The army has recently expressed concern over a deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and Jerusalem ahead of the Passover and Ramadan holidays, and following several deadly incidents between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank.
On Tuesday two Palestinians were killed by undercover Israeli soldiers in the northern and central West Bank.
Last week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with King Abdullah II of Jordan due to tensions in Jerusalem and the Hashemite Kingdom’s role in managing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. “We have agreed to work together to reduce tensions and promote understanding,” Lapid said following the meeting.
The Jordanian Palace said that in his conversation with Lapid, the King emphasized the importance of maintaining the status quo in the city, and stopping all unilateral actions which harm the two-state solution.