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
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?