Preparing for riots amid recent tensions. Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a full closure be imposed on the West Bank on Friday. The closure was imposed at midnight, following a police assessment citing concerns that riots may break out in Jerusalem and spill over into the West Bank. This is a rare move, as such a closure has not been imposed on the West Bank during a period that is not a holiday in many years.
Police forces are increasing presence in the capital for fear of riots, and have requested a closure on the West Bank after receiving intelligence information that youths plan to riot. At an assessment meeting held in the defense minister's office, it was decided that a 48-hour closure be imposed. The closure will be lifted Saturday night, and another assessment meeting will be held.
The IDF reported that during the closure, passage will be permitted in humanitarian and medical cases, and in exceptional cases, in accordance with the Civil Administration's authorization. The passage of goods will continue uninterrupted. During the closure, entrance to east Jerusalem will be permitted to some 1,000 church employees, 550 teachers, 50 Waqf employees and some 100 employees of religious bodies.
Jerusalem Police and Border Guard forces reinforced their men in east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and the surrounding villages. As is customary in tense times, police have decided to restrict entrance to the Temple Mount for Friday prayers to holders of Israeli IDs, aged 50 and above for men, and women of all ages.
Police and Border Guard officers will try to keep the peace in the Old City, in east Jerusalem and in the nearby villages by patrolling the allies of the Old City. A mobile command post will also be set up and run by District Commander Aharon Franco. Police have noted that they will take a firm hand against anyone trying to disrupt the peace.
Riots broke out in east Jerusalem last week following Israel's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to its national heritage site plan. This week, it seems the focus of the tensions is the recent decision to approve construction of 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, another source of tension seems to be brewing in the east of the city: The Jerusalem police have authorized a rightist march in the Silwan neighborhood, which has been the center of controversy in the city in recent weeks due to the Jewish settlement in Beit Yehonatan and the city's plans to demolish several homes in the neighborhood, which has been suspended for the time being.
Shmulik Grossman contributed to this report