Israel boosted security and barred Palestinians from entering from the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip ahead of the solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur that began yesterday evening.
The same occurred for last week’s Rosh Hashanah holiday and will take place again for next week’s Sukkot festival. Last year’s holiday period led to clashes and marked the start of an upsurge in Palestinian gun, knife and car-ramming attacks.
Israeli security forces are on especially high alert after a Palestinian gunman killed two people in Jerusalem on Sunday. More than 3,000 police are being deployed in the city for Yom Kippur. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said roadblocks had been mounted. Many Palestinian shops in the Old City were closed.
Near the Lions’ Gate entry to the Old City, used by many Palestinians, Israeli forces erected a temporary barrier stopping cars from going further. Closures of the Palestinian territories are often put in place for major Jewish holidays. This week’s lockdown applies only to Palestinians and not the roughly 400,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Gaza is always under an Israeli blockade, though some crossings are usually allowed for work or medical purposes. Humanitarian and urgent medical cases will be allowed through during the holiday, the army said.
On Sunday, a 39-year-old Palestinian who saw himself as an Al-Aqsa protector went on a shooting rampage in Jerusalem, killing two Israelis.
The attacker, Misbah Abu Sbeih, who was reportedly scheduled to begin a prison term on the same day, was killed by police after he fled into an east Jerusalem neighbourhood.
Hamas welcomed the attack and said Abu Sbeih was a member, but did not claim responsibility for it.
Overnight the army sealed off a sweet shop owned by members of his family, saying it was affiliated with Hamas, police said.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities announced they had arrested a Palestinian, Mohamed Joulani, last month on suspicion of planning a suicide attack on a bus in Pisgat Zeev, an Israeli settlement in east Jerusalem, on behalf of Hamas.