Israeli army to seal off West Bank as tensions rise

Telegraph UK (Link) (March 12, 2010)

The action was taken �for security reasons� including a risk of attacks, the spokesman said. The area was sealed off at midnight on Thursday.

Israeli police have also said they would bar Muslim men under the age of 50 from prayers on Friday at Jerusalem�s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam�s holiest sites, fearing unrest.

The moves come after violent clashes at the site, which is also holy to Jews, during last week�s Muslim prayers, and fresh tensions over Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes for Jewish settlers in mostly Arab east Jerusalem.

The army said some medical and religious workers, teachers, journalists and others would be exempted from the West Bank closure.

Since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, Israel has usually sealed off the West Bank ahead of major holidays, saying the move is necessary to prevent attacks, but only rarely on other occasions.

�The IDF (armed forces) will continue to operate in order to protect the citizens of Israel while maintaining the quality of life of the Palestinian population in the area,� the military said in a statement.