Israeli army closes occupied Palestinian West Bank for holiday

AFP , Sunday 16 Oct 2016

Israeli occupation forces
Israeli occupation forces arrest six Palestinians during a raid in Silwan and the Old City in Jerusalem. (Photo courtesy of Palestinian Arabic-language Safa news agency)

The Israeli army closed off the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip Sunday for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the army said, as concerns rose over whether visits to a sensitive holy site could lead to violence.

The restrictions barring Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa mosque would remain in place through Monday, but humanitarian cases would be allowed passage, said an army spokeswoman.

Sukkot usually sees an increase in the number of Jewish visitors to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the occupied east Jerusalem, which has led to clashes in past years.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians fear Israeli occupation army may one day seek to assert further control over it.

The West Bank is home to 2.5 million Palestinians.

Since the October 2015, Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 232 Palestinians. Meanwhile, almost daily stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks by frustrated and unarmed Palestinians have killed 36 Israelis and a US citizen.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, describe Palestinians' daily suffering.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy. The latest round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in April 2014.

It is the third of three successive Jewish holidays that have led to tensions with the Palestinians in the past.

Last week, Jews marked Yom Kippur, while Rosh Hashanah, or New Year, was the previous week.

A Palestinian gun attack in Jerusalem on October 9 that killed two people raised fears of further attacks.

Last year's holiday period led to clashes and marked the start of an upsurge in Palestinian demonstrations, gun, knife and car-ramming attacks.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online.

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