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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

West Bank and Gaza Sealed in Crackdown

TEL AVIV -- As Israel buried its dead Thursday, the cabinet ordered the West Bank and Gaza Strip closed indefinitely as part of a crackdown after a bus bombing that killed 21 people.


A spokesman for Yasser Arafat termed it "economic and social war'' on Palestinians.


In the West Bank town of Qalqilya where the suicide bomber lived, Israeli troops clashed with residents who said the army was preparing to destroy his family's three-room cinder-block home. By evening, the army declared a curfew in the town.


The closure proposed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will affect tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel, mainly in construction and agriculture.


"The closure will continue until further notice, until security conditions permit it to be removed,'' said Environment Minister Yossi Sarid.


Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani said the Palestinian autonomy government deplored the decision as "collective punishment'' against innocent people and warned it could slow the peace process.


"I see in these resolutions adopted by the Israeli Cabinet today a declaration of war, an economic and social war against the Palestinian society,'' he said.


Islamic militants distributed a videotape of the suicide attacker who carried the bomb onto bus No. 5 in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, terming it vengeance for Israel's killing of three militants who kidnapped a soldier last week.


In the tape, Salah Abdel-Rahim Hassan Assawi held an Israeli-made Galil automatic rifle and said his actions would also avenge the killing of his brother during the intifadeh, the uprising against Israeli occupation.


"There are many of us young people from Izzedine al-Qassam ready to carry out such actions,'' said Assawi, 21, referring to the military wing of the Hamas fundamentalist movement. "We will continue such actions.''


In Tel Aviv, some 300 mourners attended the funeral of Pua Yadger. "I will avenge you, mother!'' shouted the bomb victim's son as her body was lowered into the grave.


Israelis visited the site of the blast, some lighting candles in a box set up on a metal stand. Some cried, others argued politics. Cafes were full although some were badly damaged and glass still littered the sidewalk. "They hate us and we must be completely separated from them. We must erect a Berlin wall between us and them,'' said Fruma Levy, a schoolteacher.


The sentiment underpinned the decision to seal off Israel from Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the autonomy zones in Gaza and Jericho.


Exceptions would be permitted only for humanitarian reasons, "because it is total closure,'' said Hannie Yeshurun, spokeswoman for the West Bank military government. She said doctors and nurses would be allowed across if a specific need was proven.


Israel had already sealed off the Gaza Strip and West Bank immediately after the attack Wednesday.


"We need a separation between us and the Palestinians, not just for days but as a way of life,'' Rabin said Wednesday night in a television interview.


The government also approved the import of 15,000 more foreign workers from poorer countries to take the place of Palestinians.


Police also are asking for an extra 1,500 troops to reinforce the closure, said Police Minister Moshe Shahal.


Shahal said the government planned "an international campaign'' to cut off donations from the United States, Britain, Iran and other countries to Hamas.


Rabin said he would ask for special powers against Hamas, which has waged three attacks in Israel since Oct. 9. Measures reportedly considered were extending the six-month limit on jailing suspects without trial, easing restrictions on interrogation of terrorists and destroying attackers' homes.


An opinion poll in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily showed 85 percent of Israelis asked supported sealing off the West Bank and Gaza and 71 percent favored the idea of sending the army into Gaza to "liquidate terrorists.''


Police updated the death toll in the bombing to 21 on Thursday, with 48 wounded.