Israel extends closure on West Bank, Gaza as hunt for Elad terrorists continues
Israel has extended the closure on crossings with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip until Monday, as security forces continued to search for two Palestinian suspects in the deadly terror attack in the central Israeli city of Elad two days ago, the Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
Israel largely shuttered crossings for Palestinians into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Authorities later extended the shutdown until Saturday night following the Elad attack, in which two Palestinian suspects killed three Israelis and wounded several others in an axe and knife attack.
Exceptions will be made for medical and humanitarian cases, said COGAT, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians. According to COGAT, security officials will meet again on Sunday night 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 impacted are those who hold permits to work in Israel. About 140,000 West Bank Palestinians work in Israel and in Israeli settlements. Another 20,000 Palestinians from Gaza hold permits to work in Israel.
On Thursday, two Palestinians hacked three Israelis to death with axes in Elad, a majority ultra-Orthodox city in central Israel, Israeli officials said. Police have searched for the two — young Palestinian men from a town near Jenin in the West Bank — but have yet to apprehend them.
Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 19 dead.
The Israeli army stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that left at least 27 Palestinians dead since mid-March. Many of those took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been civilians.
Separately, the Israel Defense Forces said Saturday it had informed the families of another two alleged Palestinian terrorists that their homes in the West Bank town of Qarawat Bani Hassan were slated for demolition.
Yousef Assi, 21, and Yahya Marei, 20, are accused of driving up to the entrance of the West Bank settlement of Ariel on April 29, and opening fire at a guard post, killing 23-year-old Vyacheslav Golev. The pair were arrested a day later in their hometown.
The Gaza-based Hamas terror group’s military wing 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 terror attacks.
Assi’s and Marei’s families are given the chance to appeal the demolition order. Appeals rarely succeed, though in some cases the courts limit the demolition to parts of the home inhabited by terrorists.
Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as a matter of policy. The efficacy of the policy is hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.
Earlier Saturday, the IDF razed the home of a fourth Palestinian charged in a December shooting attack near the West Bank outpost of Homesh, in which an Israeli man was killed.
On Friday, the IDF issued a demolition order for the apartment of a Palestinian terrorist who opened fire at a Tel Aviv bar last month, killing three people.