JERUSALEM, Israel -- As the nation readies itself to observe the Day of Atonement -- Yom Kippur -- Israeli security and rescue services have been placed on high alert.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a general closure of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) from midnight Thursday through midnight Saturday, excepting medical and humanitarian needs. Likewise, border crossings to the Gaza Strip and Jordan will be closed.
Friday prayers on the Temple Mount have been restricted to men over 45, following concrete intelligence warnings of potential rioting. There is no age restriction on Muslim women.
Israel Police and IDF Border Police will be on duty at the Kotel (Western Wall) to safeguard worshippers throughout the holiday.
Security forces will also be found at Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites and in other key areas, such as the northern port city of Akko, where trouble could erupt.
Three years ago, riots broke out on Yom Kippur between Jewish and Arab residents of Akko.
On Yom Kippur, only police and emergency vehicles are permitted on the roads as the country comes to a literal standstill. By mid-afternoon Friday, most residents will be home preparing for a day of prayer and fasting.
Even flights in and out of the country stop from early Friday afternoon until 9:30 Saturday evening.
Magen David Adom -- Israel's national emergency rescue service -- is also on heightened alert.