Israel Decides Against Extending West Bank Curfew Over Passover

Israel imposed a curfew on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza until Saturday night for Passover. Despite clashes at the Temple Mount, security officials decided not to renew the lockdown for the coming days

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Israeli troops in Jenin, West Bank, on March 30
Israeli troops in Jenin, West Bank, on March 30Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ Reuters

Israel decided on Saturday not to extend the curfew on the West Bank and Gaza over Passover, as tensions continue to simmer after a spate of attacks around the country and clashes at the Temple Mount amid the holy month of Ramadan.

The curfew had been imposed Friday from 4 P.M. for the length of the first day of Passover, and is set to expire at midnight on Saturday. Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a situation assessment over the phone, with the participation of IDF Chief-of-Staff Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar and other senior officials, where it was decided that the curfew would not continue for the intermediate days of the Passover holiday. The decision was made by majority vote of the participants in the discussion.

According to sources in the defense establishment, Israel is attempting to convey to the Palestinians that the state is not interested in disturbing the Palestinian population's day-to-day activities. In making their decision, officials emphasized the importance of preserving Palestinians' religious and economic freedom, the Defense Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Gantz tweeted that Israel will continue working in a targeted manner to prevent terror. The Defense Ministry said that during the meeting, officials discussed the continued deployment of IDF troops near the separation fence and at several locations in the West Bank throughout the Passover holiday.

Israel often imposes closures on the West Bank for the Jewish High Holidays, Passover and Purim. During these times, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel, except for humanitarian crises. In past years, these closures typically lasted four days.

On Friday morning, clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The six-hour clash was the worst outbreak of violence in Jerusalem since the holy month of Ramadan began on April 1, with at least 152 Palestinians and three Israeli police officers injured in the clashes Friday.

In a rare move, Israeli officers entered Al-Aqsa Mosque itself after Palestinians threw stones at police forces from the entrance and barricaded themselves inside. The police say they carried out hundreds of arrests before reopening the compound for noon prayers for the second Friday of Ramadan.

Despite the curfew, which was announced Thursday and took effect at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, Palestinians were permitted to attend Friday prayers at the Temple Mount. However, they were required to return to the West Bank before the curfew took effect.

Last Saturday, the Defense Ministry announced a ban on Israeli citizens entering Jenin, as part of a series of sanctions on the hometown of the Palestinian shooter who killed three people in the attack in Tel Aviv on April 7.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced several restrictions on the Jenin area, in the West Bank's north, including blocking local merchants and some businesspeople from entering Israel and preventing Jenin residents from visiting family in Israel, thereby revoking 5,000 permits Israel issued for Jenin residents for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan which takes place in April.

Residents of the Jenin area with work permits in Israel will still be allowed to go there, but will face more stringent security inspections at checkpoints, the statement said.

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