Hitting the Road, an Israeli-Imposed Nightmare for the Palestinians

Category: World Affairs Topics: Occupation, Palestine, West Bank Views: 1011

For thousands of Palestinians, driving around the West Bank has become a nightmare, with the Israeli army setting up checkpoints around the West Bank in an effort to contain a five-month-old uprising.

It took more than six hours for Mohamed Sufian to travel 35 kilometers (25 miles) east from his home village of Budros to Ramallah, the West Bank's main economic hub.

"Myself and other travellers were blocked by two Israeli roadblocks, then we were forced to go on foot for several hours, the roads having become unusable," he said.

Meanwhile, the 1,200 residents of Surda received an unwelcome surprise Wednesday when they woke up to find that a 400-meter (-yard) strip at the entrance of their town had been turned into a trench, making the four-kilometer (two-mile) trip south to Ramallah nearly impossible.

"This is incredible. It's fascism. The Israelis could have closed this road without destroying it," said resident Okab Abdel Samad.

The trench will hinder the thousands of Palestinians who want to drive through Surda on their way into Ramallah.

According to witnesses, Israeli soldiers had supervised the digging of the trench during the night.

The next day, residents managed to build a small pathway across the trench. But the Israelis responded by deepening the trench.

Surda had been relatively spared by the Israeli army since the start of clashes in late September as few shots had been fired from the village.

Other parts of the West Bank have not been so lucky. Soldiers had already made the road between Ramallah and nearby Bir Zeit completely useless.

An Israeli army spokesman said the roads had been torn up "for security reasons."

The Palestinian Authority has criticized the army's actions and complained to the United Nations, saying Israel is pursuing a "policy of apartheid."

Palestinian human rights groups have said the Israeli policy is turning the West Bank into "tiny islands," and slicing to pieces the Gaza Strip, thereby isolating the Palestinian territories from the outside world.

Since the start of the Palestinian intifada, the army has imposed a blockade between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip and sealed off areas under Palestinian sovereignty.

The blockade is the most far-reaching since Israel captured the territories in 1967 and has cost the Palestinian economy some 1.15 billion dollars, according to a UN report published last month.

The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said Friday that the newly installed right-wing prime minister Ariel Sharon has accepted an army plan that would cut up the territories further to isolate zones where the most severe violence has taken place.

The army plan will split the West Bank and Gaza Strip into sections under the control of a special military force "in order to track down terrorist agents and to combat them more effectively," the newspaper said.

Israel believes, however, that such a move would allow it to ease the economic sanctions on the Palestinians, which have come under increasing criticism from overseas, including from the United States, Israel's chief ally.


Hisham Abdallah is a reporter for AFP.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation, Palestine, West Bank
Views: 1011

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