Israel extends closure of West Bank and Gaza as hunt for Elad terrorists continues
Israel extended the closure of crossings with the West Bank and Gaza Strip until Monday as security forces continued to search for two Palestinian suspects in the deadly terror attack in the central town of Elad of Israel two days ago, the Defense Ministry announced on Saturday. .
Israel largely closed Palestinian crossings into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Authorities later extended the closure until Saturday night after the Elad attack, in which two Palestinian suspects killed three Israelis and injured several others in an ax and knife attack.
Exceptions will be made for medical and humanitarian cases, said COGAT, Israel‘s military liaison with the Palestinians. According to COGAT, security officials will meet again on Sunday evening to assess whether to maintain or end the closure.
The shutdown only applies to Palestinians. Checkpoints used by Israelis and foreign nationals to enter and exit the West Bank will remain open as usual.
Most of the Palestinians affected are those who hold permits to work in Israel. About 140,000 West Bank Palestinians work in Israel and Israeli settlements. Another 20,000 Palestinians from Gaza hold permits to work in Israel.
Two Palestinians on Thursday hacked to death three Israelis in Elad, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox town in central Israel, Israeli officials said. Police have been searching for the two – young Palestinian men from a town near Jenin in the West Bank – but have yet to apprehend them.
Tensions have skyrocketed between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months amid repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 19 people dead.
The Israeli army has intensified its activities in the West Bank in an attempt to quell the spiral of violence. The raids that followed sparked clashes that have left at least 27 Palestinians dead since mid-March. Many of them took part in the clashes, while others appeared to be civilians.
Separately, the Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday it informed the families of two other suspected Palestinian terrorists that their homes in the West Bank town of Qarawat Bani Hassan were to be demolished.
Yousef Assi, 21, and Yahya Marei, 20, are accused of driving to the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29 and opening fire on a guard post, killing 23-year-old Vyacheslav Golev. The couple were arrested a day later in their hometown.
The military wing of the Gaza-based terror group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the two as members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing.
Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terrorist attacks.
The families of Assi and Marei have the option of appealing the demolition order. Appeals are rarely successful, although in some cases the courts limit demolition to parts of the house inhabited by terrorists.
Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terrorist attacks as part of its policy. The effectiveness of the policy is hotly debated even within Israel’s security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unfair collective punishment.
Earlier Saturday, the IDF razed the home of a fourth Palestinian accused in a December shooting near the West Bank outpost of Homesh in which an Israeli was killed.
On Friday, the IDF issued an order to demolish the apartment of a Palestinian terrorist who opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar last month, killing three people.