Israel Announces Complete Closure of West Bank, Gaza on Election Day

Published February 5th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Israel has announced a complete closure of the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday’s Israeli elections for prime minister, has learnt. 

The areas are already cordoned off but with the exception of Qalqilya and Jericho. The only exception on Tuesday is “humanitarian cases,” sources said. 

The sources added that Israel fears escalation of attacks on the part of the Palestinians, especially after the Islamist and Nationalist Forces, the coalition of 14 movements steering the Intifada, announced Tuesday “a day of rage.” 

Fifteen thousand Israeli police, soldiers, and civil guardsmen will be deployed Tuesday in an extensive operation to ensure that law and order is maintained during the prime-ministerial election, reported The Jerusalem Post newspaper.  

Police Insp.-Gen., Shlomo Aharonishky, said police have received several reports regarding the intentions of the Arab sector in the north of the country to interfere with the election, adding that any attempt to disturb the peace would be met with a firm response.  

"We must take into account that attempts to interfere may come from public sectors that are calling for a boycott of the election," he said, adding that police, in coordination with Central Elections Committee chairman, Mishael Cheshin, will not hesitate to close down polling booths if trouble breaks out.  

While special efforts will be made to mobilize security forces in areas where confrontation may occur, Aharonishky said the police had not have not received any specific threats of terror attacks.  

Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud leader Ariel Sharon still leads caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak by 17-20 percent in the latest polls published in Israel. 

The results of three polls were published late Sunday showing that the opposition leader is the stronger candidate for the prime minister’s post. 

The results came as follows: 

Gallop: Sharon 55-Barak 36 

Smith: 51-31 

Mina Tzemah (which does polls for the Israeli Channel 2 TV and the mass-circulation "Yediot Ahronot" newspaper ): 56-38. 

Throughout the election campaign for premiership, opinion polls have shown Sharon a way ahead of Barak, who highlighted in his campaign the bloody past of his rival. 

Sharon was written off as a potential premier after leading the country as defense minister into a disastrous involvement in Lebanon 18 years ago. 

He also took indirect responsibility for his role in a massacre by Christian militias of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Barak's campaign leaders showed TV images of the war to keep voters away from the 72-year-old veteran general. 

Sharon was blamed by the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Arabs and international parties for triggering the ongoing violence in the Palestinian lands by a controversial visit to Al Aqsa Mosque late September. 

However, many Israelis hold Barak, who resigned in December, responsible for the bloodbath, which has claimed the lives of more than 400 people due to the extreme use of force to curb the Intifada.  

Sharon, the champion of Jewish settlers, won a chance to run for the premiership after his predecessor as Likud chairman, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was kept out of the race by Israeli election law – 



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