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Israel Seals Off Palestinian Territories Following Suicide Bombings - 2003-05-18

Israel has imposed a total closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in response to several Palestinian suicide bombings. The Israeli Cabinet made the decision after at least nine Israelis were killed in terror attacks during the past two days.

Israel's Cabinet has ordered a ban on all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from entering the Jewish State until further notice.

The decision is expected to affect thousands of Palestinian workers, whose livelihood depends on their ability to travel to Israel.

The only exceptions are likely to be humanitarian cases, such as Palestinians seeking emergency medical treatment.

Israel is also imposing an internal closure within the territories, banning Palestinians from traveling between cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The decision follows a series of suicide bombings, including an attack on a commuter bus in Jerusalem that killed at least seven Israelis.

The bomber was disguised as a religious Jew.

The same ploy was used less than 12 hours earlier. Late Saturday, a Palestinian suicide bomber, who also dressed in the garb of a religious Jew, killed an Israeli couple in a Jewish enclave in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

In reaction to the bombings, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, postponed his planned trip to Washington for talks with President Bush.

The Palestinian information minister, Nabil Amr, condemned the suicide attack in Jerusalem.

But David Baker, an official in Mr. Sharon's office, said words were not enough.

He called for the Palestinian Authority to use all its resources to stop "once and for all" the wave of terrorism against innocent Israeli citizens.