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Israel tightens security for Yom Kippur

Jolted by a spy scandal and new warnings of suicide bombings, a tense and somber Israel Friday ushered in Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

Jews fast and pray for forgiveness of sins during the Day of Atonement, which began at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. About two-third of Israel's Jews are secular, but nearly 70 percent were expected to visit a synagogue during the holiday.As shoppers hurried home this afternoon with bags of food for a final meal before the start of the fast, dozens of police carrying metal detectors patrolled Jerusalem's main thoroughfares.

Police stopped passers-by, asking to see their ID cards, and boarded buses to inspect bags for explosives.

Israel also sealed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring the more than 2 million Palestinians there from entering Israel for the duration of the holiday.

Israeli news media said Friday there were new warnings that Islamic militants would try to carry out suicide bombings.

Authorities have identified four of the five men who carried out July 30 and Sept. 4 suicide bombings in a Jerusalem market and pedestrian mall, but the ringleaders are still at large.

The holiday gave Israelis a chance to unwind from a string of other bad news, such as Israel's botched assassination attempt against a Hamas leader in Jordan and the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.

Recent polls have suggested that Israelis are increasingly pessimistic about the future.

In the hours before sundown, Jerusalem's streets emptied and stores closed. Public transportation came to a halt and TV and radio stopped broadcasting.

Secular Israelis will pass the holiday reading books or watching cable TV or rented videos. Shelves at one downtown video store were nearly empty by this morning.

"I've seen people rent eight movies for one day. They are freaking out about being by themselves for a while," said an employee at Blockbuster Video.