Israeli security forces were on full alert this week to coincide with the national elections.
Taking seriously repeated threats of terror attacks timed to coincide with the balloting, authorities deployed some 20,000 Israeli police and soldiers in sensitive areas across the country.
They also imposed a full closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip that was expected to last at least until Wednesday’s elections.
The closure, which was initially imposed after the first of four Hamas suicide attacks in Israel in late February and early March, had been relaxed slightly in recent weeks to allow older Palestinians to work in Israel and to allow the transfer of goods between Israel and the territories.
But the army reinstated full restrictions over the weekend, suspending all work permits to Palestinian laborers and preventing the transfers of all goods in and out of the territories.
Exceptions would only be made for senior Palestinian officials and medical emergencies, said an army spokesman.
Security sources were also reportedly considering imposing an internal closure within the territories to prevent travel between Palestinian town and villages.
The tightened security measures came amid conflicting signals from the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement about future terrorist attacks.
A declaration to continue such attacks came in a leaflet distributed Saturday in Gaza. But this followed reports that the jailed leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, had called for a halt in terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Israeli security officials allowed local Hamas leaders and two of Yassin’s sons to visit him in jail in an effort to persuade him to issue an appeal to end the terrorist attacks.
A Hamas official reportedly said that the movement’s leaders had decided to stop terrorist attacks until the end of the final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and that Yassin shared this view.
But an Israeli security official who was present during the visit said Yassin, who was jailed for life by Israel in 1989 in connection with the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers, refused to issue a call to end all terror attacks.
One of the Hamas leaders who visited Yassin in jail, Mohammed Zahar, last week called don Hamas not to carry out any terrorist attacks before the Israeli elections so as not to be viewed as a political tool of one Israeli party or another.
The leaflet distributed Saturday left the clear impression that some segments of Hamas were still in disagreement over the use of terror as a political tactic.