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Israel sets 3 day West Bank closure

10 June 2016, 18:30

Jerusalem - The Israeli military said on Friday the West Bank will be closed off until the end of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on Sunday, due to security concerns following a Palestinian shooting attack this week that killed four civilians.

It said that crossings will be open for "humanitarian and medical" cases and for Palestinians to worship at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Police said tens of thousands of Palestinians attended prayers at the mosque on Friday, the first of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It said police were on high alert in Jerusalem and prayers passed peacefully.

Much of the past months of violence stems from tensions at the hilltop compound.

Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

It is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the revered Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times.

West bank closures are often imposed ahead of holidays in Israel when there are security fears of Palestinian attacks. Tensions are especially high now after Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded five others in a popular and crowded area of Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.

The military said it arrested several people in connection to that attack in the West Bank overnight.

Over the last eight months, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks on civilians and security forces, mostly stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified as attackers by Israel.

The assaults were once near-daily incidents, but they have become less frequent in recent weeks.

The office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, on Friday condemned the Tel Aviv shooting. Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that Israel had an "obligation" to bring those responsible to account, but said some measures punish "thousands of innocent Palestinians" and could constitute "collective punishment."

The military says the closure will end Sunday night after the Shavuot holiday.

- AP


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