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Israeli Gaza-border Communities To Remain on Lockdown Over Weekend

Roads were blocked in the area around the Gaza Strip and the Erez Crossing, the main passage between Israel and Gaza, was closed Friday for the fourth consecutive day as Israel remained on high alert amid threats of terror attacks along the border with the Strip. The lockdown is set to remain in place over the weekend.

Members of the Goldin family, whose son, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was killed during the 2014 conflict in the Gaza Strip, were to arrive at the border Friday for a demonstration demanding the return of his remains and those of Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, and the return of Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who have been held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2014 and 2015, respectively. The rally was to be the culmination of a three-day walk from Kfar Saba, covering a distance of 84 kilometers. But with the area around the Gaza Strip under lockdown, it is unclear whether they will be able to get beyond the southern city of Ashkelon.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Thursday that it was reinforcing its deployment of troops around the Gaza Strip to “improve the IDF’s readiness in the area” following threats of attack by Palestinian forces in response to the arrest of a senior Palestinian commander in the West Bank earlier this week.

The reinforcement includes artillery, combat engineering, infantry, special forces, and tank units, according to the IDF. According to reports, dozens of armed drones were in the air over Gaza, poised to respond to an attack. Chief of State Aviv Kochavi approved attack plans in case an escalation occurs.

The heightened tensions began overnight between Monday and Tuesday, when Israeli forces arrested Bassem al-Saadi, Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s leader in the West Bank, along with other Islamic Jihad members in a raid on Jenin in the northern West Bank. Dirar al-Kafrini, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed in the fighting.