Israel locks down W. Bank, Gaza for anniversary party
The Israeli army has imposed a four-day closure on both the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip ahead of planned celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment, which began on Monday and will continue until mid-May.
According to an army statement, the closure began on midnight Sunday and will continue until midnight Friday.
The Israeli authorities typically lock down the occupied West Bank during Jewish holidays.
It is the first time, however, for the army to seal the West Bank and Gaza for national anniversary celebrations.
According to the army statement, the closure means Palestinians from the West Bank will be barred from entering Israel while the limited import of goods into the Gaza Strip -- including fuel -- will be temporarily halted.
The move comes amid mounting tension amid plans by the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.
That day will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were dispossessed of their land to make way for the new Jewish state.
The Palestinian territories have remained tense since last December, when U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, drawing condemnation and protest from across the Arab and Muslim world.
Ever since, Palestinians in the West Bank have held rallies each Friday -- which often lead to clashes with Israeli forces -- to protest the controversial U.S. decision.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are holding continuous sit-ins along the strip's eastern border with Israel to demand the "right of return" to their ancestral homes in historical Palestine.
Since the "Great Return March" began on Mar. 30, at least 35 Palestinians have been killed -- and thousands more injured -- by cross-border Israeli army gunfire.
In a related development, the Israeli army rounded up 30 Palestinians in overnight raids carried out across the West Bank, according to an army statement issued Monday.
The individuals were arrested for suspected involvement in "popular activities affecting security", the statement read, going on to note that they had all since been referred to the authorities for investigation.
According to Palestinian figures, some 6,400 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli prisons, including dozens of women and scores of minors.
About 450 of these are under what Israel calls "administrative detention" in which they receive neither trial or charge.
The Israeli army frequently carries out sweeping arrest campaigns across the occupied West Bank under the pretext of searching for "wanted" Palestinians.