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Israel imposes general closure on West Bank
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Israel's defense establishment on Thursday night decided to seal off the West Bank for two days, as the ongoing deadly assaults in Gaza Strip has strained relations between Jews and Arabs.

The general closure, ordered by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, starts at midnight Thursday and ends on Saturday night, said the army in a statement, adding that entries to Israel of those in need of humanitarian or medical aid will be authorized by a special liaison office.

Also on Thursday night, the top police officer in charge of northern Israel Shimon Koren met with 20 Arab community leaders, during which he said police would allow protest rallies, but would exercise zero tolerance to lawbreakers.

"We won't legitimize thugs, stone throwing, or torching. We will be intolerant of bullies," local news service Ynet quoted Shimon Koren as saying.

Since Israel kicked off the so-called Operation Cast Lead in the Hamas-ruled strip, which has so far caused over 400 deaths and about 2,000 injuries, thousands of Arabs have gone on streets in protest in the Jewish state as in many other countries. Some of the rallies turned sour as protestors clashed with security forces.

Meanwhile, anti-Israel sentiments seem on the rise among Palestinians, as massive protests took place across the West Bank, and violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians were frequently reported.

Amid fears of violent confrontations, Israeli police and army have been put on high alert.

(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2009)

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