Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes near Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Israel has overhauled with new technology the Qalandiya checkpoint—the main crossing between the northern West Bank and Jerusalem—in a move expected to significantly enhance the daily commute of about 7,000 Palestinians. Israel's Civil Administration, in conjunction with the military, started the $11-million project a year and a half ago.
“We aim to ease the burdens on the Palestinians entering Israel with new technological mechanisms,” Ala' Saad, head of the Jerusalem Suburbs Office, said at a press conference to unveil the upgraded passage.
The ultimate goal is to reduce wait times for both Palestinian workers and Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, he explained. “We have planned for this project for years now, and for its second phase we aim to increase the lanes around the crossing to ease traffic.”
Previously, Palestinians would spend hours each day traveling from their homes in the West Bank to work in Israel proper.
“Sometimes I can’t even get to my office at all because of the heavy traffic,” a Palestinian laborer told The Media Line.
Another worker made clear his preference would be to remove barriers altogether
, before qualifying that “the enhanced crossing is going to make our lives much easier and effective. I lose a lot of time at checkpoints and at least this will help.”
In this respect, one Palestinian insisted to The Media Line that "even if they [Israel] add the best technology to facilitate the crossing, their occupation is what needs to be removed." According to Nabeel Shaath, a high-ranking Palestinian official, the upgrade “proves that Israelis don’t have any intention of withdrawing from the West Bank" and that “the new crossing point reflects Israel’s hegemony over Jerusalem, to a point that the borders won’t be clear anymore.
“Israel is gaining control of more and more lands by preventing Palestinians from building new homes or even expanding their existing ones," he told The Media Line, adding that "these actions violate Palestinian rights and make daily life much more difficult." The new facility includes twenty-seven electronic "speed gates" that open with the swipe of a pre-approved magnetic card that Palestinians must apply for. At the previous facility, there were only five windows, forcing entrants to stand in line for hours whereupon they would hand their credentials to a soldier to check them manually on a computer.
Qalandiya now contains two reserved areas for the sick or elderly, and also has more entryways for those opting to cross on foot.For more stories, go to themedialine.org
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