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23 Sep, 2015

Israeli Authorities to Completely Close Off West Bank, Gaza for Jewish Holiday

TEL AVIV, September 22, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli authorities announced that it would completely close off the West Bank and Gaza for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which coincides with the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha.

Israeli ‘Defense’ Minister Moshe Yaalon was reported as saying that that Israeli military would close off the occupied Palestinian Territories from Tuesday 12:00 until dawn on Thursday.

According to the Jerusalem Post, “The closure is an annual security precaution, and comes in line with an order by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”

Israeli military would also close Beit Hanoun (Erez) border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip over the same period.

The crossing, according to Palestinian liaison Department, would operate normally during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday on Thursday.

Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday night and lasts until Wednesday evening, with thousands of Jews expected to visit the Buraq (Western) Wall below the mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha begins Wednesday evening and lasts until Sunday.

Israeli police have deployed thousands of officers in the city ahead of the Jewish and Islamic festivals and stepped up restrictions on Palestinians’ entry into the mosque compound, placing barricades in the Old City’s alleyways.

As a result of Israeli restrictions, Palestinians under the age of 40 have been denied access into the mosque compound, forcing Palestinians to perform Tuesday dawn prayer in the Old City’s streets.

Police have reportedly flown a helicopter and a surveillance blimp over the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to a 1967 agreement Israeli authorities made after occupying Jerusalem, only Muslims are allowed in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while Jewish prayer is allowed at the Western Wall next door, said the PLO’s department of culture and information.

However, in recent months right-wing Jewish groups, who have previously called for the destruction of the mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the site, have repeatedly raided the compound under heavy police escort, while severe restrictions are imposed on Palestinians’ entry.

The visits, combined with proposals for a Knesset vote to divide the site between Jews and Muslims, have outraged the Palestinian public, which sees the encroachment on Al-Aqsa as symptomatic of the wider denial of their rights in historic Palestine as well as intense discrimination in housing, employment, and social services by Israeli authorities.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.