JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak imposed a full closure on Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) at midnight Thursday, following two weeks of Arab rioting on the Temple Mount during Friday's Muslim prayers.
Barak instructed the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to implement a full 48-hour closure at midnight Thursday after receiving intelligence reports that Arab youth were planning to riot again this week. At midnight on Saturday, the situation will be reassessed.
Police have been instructed to limit entrance to the Temple Mount to Israeli Arabs holding identity cards. Men must be age 50 or older, while there are no age restrictions on women.
As always, the closure does not apply to medical and humanitarian emergencies. Religious employees, both Christian and Muslim, as well as teachers with the proper permits are also exempted.
Police Chief Aharon Franco instructed police and border guards to act decisively if anyone attempts to disturb the peace, especially in the Old City and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
"The IDF 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 IDF Spokesman's Office stated in a press release.
Last Friday, Arab youths hurled rocks from the Temple Mount on Jews praying below at the Kotel (Western Wall). Police used tear gas to disperse the rioters and restore calm to the area.
Two consecutive weeks of rioting followed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's announcement to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron and Rachel's Tomb outside Bethlehem on the list of Jewish Heritage sites slated for refurbishing and preservation.
Overnight Thursday, the IAF (Israel Air Force) targeted an arms smuggling tunnel near the Rafah border crossing between the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip and a weapons manufacturing facility in Khan Yunis.
The air strikes were in response to a Kassam rocket attack on southern Israel on Thursday.
The IDF Spokesman's Office issued a statement saying it "will continue to respond to any attempts to disrupt the calm in southern Israel."
Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority officials condemned an Interior Ministry announcement approving 1,600 new housing units for Ramat Shlomo, an existing Jewish neighborhood located between French Hill and Ramot in northeast Jerusalem, further fueling the rioting.
The PA continues to claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, while Israelis maintain that Jerusalem will remain its eternal undivided capital.