Senior police and IDF officers warned on Sunday of a growing threat of suicide attacks from Palestinians from Samaria who are able to enter Dahyat el-Barid and Bir Naballah, which are south of the permanent checkpoints north of Jerusalem, and then slip past makeshift army roadblocks on roads linking these communities with the capital.
The state wants to do away with the roadblocks by closing the roads and requiring Arabs with Israeli identity cards authorizing residence in Jerusalem to enter the capital through the newly completed border terminal at Atarot. Residents of the two communities, however, have asked the High Court of Justice for an interim injunction prohibiting the army from sealing the roads until the court rules on their primary petitions, which challenge the route of the separation barrier in these areas.
"Jerusalem is under threat in the same way it was between 2001 and 2005," Lt.-Cmdr. Shimon Koren of the Israel Police told a panel consisting of Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Justices Esther Hayut and Miriam Naor. "The threat is growing greater. Palestinians are able to freely reach the outskirts of Jerusalem from Ramallah without being examined. This creates a genuine danger. Terrorists are entering Jerusalem," Koren said.
The state's representative, attorney Aner Hellman, told the court that the state had waited until the Atarot terminal was fully operational before seeking to close the roads from Dahyat el-Barid and Bir Naballah, so that Palestinians with Jerusalem residency would be able to immediately benefit from improved procedures that would allow then to reach Jerusalem faster.
On April 4, the same day the IDF officially opened the Atarot terminal, it also opened a bypass road enabling Jerusalem residents from Bir Naballah to drive to Ramallah and A-Ram, both in Area A, which is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority, without having to pass through the terminal. Hellman told the court that the opening of the new bypass road, the completion of the terminal and the blocking of the roads leading to Jerusalem were all part of a coordinated security plan.
Attorney Muhammad Dahle, representing Jerusalem residents living in Dahyat el-Barid and Bir Naballah, said the road closure would force residents of Bir Naballah and the surrounding area to travel five additional kilometers to the Atarot terminal.
He also said that if the roadblock was closed in Dahyat el-Barid, a small neighborhood immediately south of A-Ram, the 60,000 residents of A-Ram would have only one exit to the rest of the West Bank, which could easily be sealed off by the IDF.
Barak said he would wait a day for a lawyer who was absent from Sunday's hearing to submit a response before ruling on the request for the interim injunction to keep the roads open.