The Israeli military on Tuesday demolished the family home of a Palestinian convicted of being an accomplice to a deadly attack on Israelis last year, while security was stepped up for a Jewish holiday that is set to begin at sundown. The military said the accomplice, Amjad Elewi, assisted in the “planning and execution” of a shooting attack that killed two Israelis who were driving their car in the West Bank. He is serving two life sentences plus 30 years for his role in the attack.
The military said it sealed the crossings in and out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a security precaution for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. Nearly the entire country ground to a halt at sundown on Tuesday as Israelis began observing the solemn day with a 25-hour fast and prayers. Jews traditionally spend the day asking for forgiveness at intense prayer services. It caps a 10-day period of soul-searching that began with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year holiday. Shops, cafes and businesses shut down, and TV and radio stations go silent.
Highways and roads are virtually empty except for secular youth enjoying the chance to bike and skateboard freely. Ahead of the holiday, hundreds of Jews gathered in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel to pray for people in neighboring Syria, the Times of Israel reported. It said the son of the late Menachem Froman, a rabbi from the settlement of Tekoa who promoted coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, organized the initiative.
The Facebook site promoting the prayers said they are meant “to cry out, to pray…to awaken the mercy of the world over the suffering” in Syria. The prayers were unusual, as Syria has fought several wars with Israel. Israel has largely kept to the sidelines of the civil war, but wounded Syrians who have reached the frontier have been treated by Israeli army medics who brought them into the country for care at Israeli hospitals.
Israel has beefed up security in Jerusalem for the holiday after a shooting rampage by a Palestinian gunman this week that killed two Israelis. Police said forces shuttered a West Bank pastry shop belonging to the family of the attacker earlier Tuesday. The shop was a “center for incitement,” where videos were filmed to “encourage terrorism,” according to a police statement. The current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence began just over a year ago, and in that time, 36 Israelis and two visiting Americans have been killed in Palestinian attacks.
During the same time, about 219 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. Israel says most of those killed were attackers, while the Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force. Israel has blamed the violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders, compounded on social media sites. The Palestinians say it is rooted in some 50 years of military occupation and fading hopes for independence.