Palestinians face more restrictions than ever

The Israeli authorities have been ordered by the High Court to give a formal explanation of why an important highway running from Jerusalem through the occupied West Bank has been barred to Palestinians living in the area.

The Israeli High Court ruled yesterday that the state - in this instance the Israeli military - has to explain why Route 443 is in practice barred to Palestinians and why roadblocks preventing access to the road from Palestinian villages along the route have not been dismantled.

While it only concerns a single stretch of road, the petition from the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) in several respects goes to the heart of the heavy restrictions on Palestinian movement and access in much of the West Bank. This is graphically illustrated in a UN map showing road closures and territory - about 40 per cent of the West Bank- which are either barred or heavily restricted for Palestinians, severing the sectors of the West Bank from each other, and from Jerusalem.

The map highlights restrictions imposed by the barrier and road closures largely to protect Jewish settlements, and the unimpeded travel of settlers in the West Bank, resulting in what critics call the "cantonisation" of the territory into enclaves separated from each other and Jerusalem. Closures imposed since the intifada began in 2000 mean that Palestinians are probably more restricted now than at any time during the past 40 years.

The ruling follows a petition by Acri against the almost seven-year de facto ban on behalf of the 25,000 residents of six Palestinian villages near the road who are forced on to poor backways rather than the highway through the West Bank towards Ramallah, which had served them since the British mandate.

Route 443 is popular among Israeli commuters as it provides a fast connection between Jerusalem and the Israeli town of Modin and is often used as an alternative route between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Controversy intensified after the daily newspaper Ha'aretz discovered that there was no specific legal order underpinning the ban. The Ministry of Defence said at the time that the road was open to Palestinians who passed inspection at checkpoints, but this in practice applies only to drivers with special permits.

Feeder roads are invariably blocked with boulders, concrete blocks or iron gates. After Acri applied to the military for the route to be opened to Palestinians, officials in its civil administration offered the council head at one of the villages, Beit Sira, transit permits for some taxi owners there. The head of the village council, Ali Abu Tsafya insisted that the road be opened to all residents and since then there have been no further meetings.

Route 443 is unusual among West Bank main roads as it used not only by West Bank settlers but large volumes of Israeli traffic travelling through occupied territory to and from destinations in Israel proper.

The military said yesterday the barriers had been erected because of "numerous terrorist attacks" on the road and because they were security related did not require an order to be issued. The court ruling was being "evaluated" and a final position would be give to the court in two months.

Yoav Loeff, a spokesman for Acri, said yesterday that it was not ignoring security considerations but said the army had ample alternative means to enforce security without operating a blanket ban, which violated the international legal rights of the original users of the route. Residents had to use routes which were longer, sometimes dangerous, and more costly for those using taxis."It makes the movement of goods more costly so has an economic effect and it can endanger life for emergency cases who may take an hour to get to hospital instead of 15 minutes," he said.

"We do not use the word apartheid in court but it is difficult to find another term for roads that can be used only for Israelis." About 260,000 settlers live in the West Bank and another 190,000 Jewish residents live in occupied Arab East Jerusalem in housing built since the 1967 war. The World Bank last month largely blamed restrictions on movement of Palestinian goods and people for the devastation of the West Bank economy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us