BETHLEHEM, Palestine, Oct 3 – Israeli authorities impose wide-ranging closures on the West Bank and Gaza, beginning Thursday, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, limiting the movement of Palestinians, just as the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival begins.
Military authorities said in a statement, that the closures would begin at midnight on Thursday and last until Saturday midnight, massively limiting the movement of all Palestinians, in and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for the duration of the holiday.
The only possible exceptions that could be made, the statement continued, were for humanitarian and medical needs, although the closure of government offices during the same time could present difficulties to those seeking to utilise the exceptions.
Israel routinely seals the Palestinian territories during Jewish holidays, depriving Palestinians of the freedom of movement and cutting them off from family and work inside Israel.
This year’s closure, however, is particularly controversial, as the somber Yom Kippur day of repentance overlaps with the joyous Eid al-Adha festival, celebrated by millions of Palestinian Muslims.
Yom Kippur lasts from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, while the Eid holiday is marked for five days beginning Friday.
An Israeli security source told Ma’an that, facilitation for Palestinian Muslims seeking permits to visit Israel during the festival will begin on Sunday, giving them three days for travel.
Palestinians frequently visit Israel during the Eid holiday to visit Muslim holy sites, travel to the many Palestinian cities inside the country, or just visit the beach, taking advantage of the distribution of permits, to escape the occupied West Bank for a brief respite.
The 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, however, are extremely limited in receiving permits to visit Israel for the Eid holiday, while the millions of Palestinian refugees abroad, who do not fall under the permit regime, are generally forbidden.
Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs, Maruf Zahran, told Ma’an that Israel will allow Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank to apply for permits to enter Israel, while Gazan Muslims will be issued only 500 permits.
Maruf Zahran added that the permits will allow Palestinians to enter Israel, except for the southern resort city of Eilat, from morning until 10 p.m., when they must return to the Palestinian territories.
Zahran said that Israeli authorities will be conducting “security checks” on applications before deciding to issue a permit or not.
Palestinians who have been previously held as prisoners by Israel or are involved in political activities are routinely denied such permits.
Regarding the 500 Gaza permits, Zahran added, only that those who have first-degree relatives in Jerusalem and those who are above 60 years old will be issued permits.
Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, restricting the movement of all Palestinians in the territories.