JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israel has temporarily closed the main crossing point between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank after a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier to death at a checkpoint there, the army said on Friday.
The shutdown came against a backdrop of spiralling violence this week, including Israeli missile strikes that have killed three militants in Gaza following a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed five Israelis.
A Palestinian man fatally stabbed a 20-year-old soldier in the neck on Thursday at Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and the city of Ramallah, the gateway for thousands of Palestinians who enter the holy city from the West Bank daily.
"The Qalandiya checkpoint is closed … until further notice unless humanitarian cases need to get through," an Israeli army spokeswoman said.
Army Radio quoted a senior military officer saying the checkpoint, part of a network that Israel maintains in the West Bank, would remain closed for several days. Israeli news media said security measures were being reviewed.
Entry to Israel by West Bank Palestinians already had been heavily restricted during a five-year-old Palestinian uprising.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon”s government ordered a "general closure" of the territory after Monday”s suicide bombing at a shopping mall in the coastal town of Netanya.
Israel says such measures are taken in self-defence to prevent further attacks.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated the Palestinian accusation that Israel was imposing collective punishment that leads to "more hatred and violence".
The latest bloodshed has strained an already shaky nine-month-old truce and further diminished peace hopes stirred by Israel”s Gaza withdrawal in September.