Israel has arrested 19 people and temporarily closed the Palestinian territories as it prepares for the last of a month of Jewish holiday commemorations, authorities said on Sunday. Palestinians will be barred from entering from the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the Sukkot festival wraps up with the Simchat Torah holiday, which begins at sundown on Sunday and ends the next evening.
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The closure, a frequent measure for major Jewish holidays, will remain in place throughout Sunday and Monday, with only emergency cases allowed through, the Israeli army said. Israeli police also announced they had arrested 19 Palestinians in various areas of annexed east Jerusalem in connection with recent clashes with security forces.
Police said the clashes took place over the Yom Kippur holiday earlier in October and the arrests were “based on intelligence and operations”. The week-long Sukkot festival is the last of three successive Jewish holidays that have led to tensions with the Palestinians in the past.
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Earlier in October, Jews marked Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, or New Year. A Palestinian gun attack in Jerusalem on October 9 that killed two people raised fears of further violence and Israel has boosted security. Last year’s holiday period led to clashes and marked the start of an upsurge in Palestinian gun, knife and car-ramming attacks.
Thousands of Jews visit the Western Wall in east Jerusalem’s Old City during the holiday period, while a smaller number go to the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The compound is holy to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The site is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians fearing Israel may one day seek to assert further control over it.
Violence since October 2015 has killed 235 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national, according to an AFP count. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.