Israel seals off West Bank ahead of 61st independence day
Israel sealed off the West Bank as it was marking its annual memorial day for fallen soldiers Tuesday, and preparing for its 61st independence day, Israel Radio reported.
The army shut down checkpoints on key West Bank roads leading into Israel, to avoid possible attacks by Palestinian militants in crowded city centres as Israelis plan to celebrate 61 years since their state was founded Tuesday evening, dpa reported.
Celebrations for Independence Day traditionally begin immediately after the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism is declared over, at a formal ceremony in Jerusalem after sunset.
The memorial day began Monday night. Sirens wailed at 8 pm (1800 GMT), and will do so again at 11 am Tuesday, in memory of the more than 22,000 soldiers who died in Israel's wars. Since a few years a go, the figure also includes civilians who died in bomb and shooting attacks by Palestinian militants.
According to the Israeli Defence Ministry, 133 soldiers and civilians died during their service and in attacks during the past year.
Restaurants, bars and shops are closed until Tuesday evening, when mass events that include performances by local singers are planned in city and town squares throughout the country.
Israeli President Shimon Peres lit a memorial flame late Monday at the Jewish Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.