Palestinians block highway over grove vandalism

Border Police disperse crowd with stun grenades after they briefly stop traffic on main route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

Palestinians, activists block Route 443 370 (photo credit: Marshall Pinkerton)
Palestinians, activists block Route 443 370
(photo credit: Marshall Pinkerton)
Security forces shot stun grenades at Palestinian protesters who had blocked Route 443, briefly stopping cars traveling on a main route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv during rush-hour traffic.
One Palestinian demonstrator scaled the pole of a street lamp and hung a Palestinian flag, so that it fluttered over the West Bank highway.
According to Army Radio, the flag remained there until the evening.
Palestinians targeted the road to visibly protest the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank as well as a rise in violent attacks by right-wing extremists against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.
Around 9 a.m., a group of about 30 Palestinians as well as some Israeli and foreign activists walked onto a section of Route 443 located near the Maccabim checkpoint that leads in the direction of Tel Aviv.
As they stood in the middle of the highway, they waved Palestinian flags and chanted “free, free Palestine.”
They also held a large white sign that said, “stop settler terrorism.” Some of the protesters stood on the cars, whose passage they had blocked.
Security forces that arrived to clear the road, clashed with the Palestinians and briefly arrested one of them.
One soldier pushed at the protesters, shouting, “move back, move back.” A man who tried to stand firm said in response, “This is a Palestinian road, and I am Palestinian.”
Border police and soldiers used stun grenades and pepper spray to clear the road.
A few of the demonstrators managed to place a number of Palestinian flags on an IDF vehicle. One soldier spit on a Palestinian flag, as he removed it.
Abir Kopty, spokeswoman for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, said that the Palestinians chose the road because it symbolized injustice of Israel’s continued “occupation” of the West Bank.
“We organized this action today to stress that as long as Palestinians suffer under the daily practices of the occupation and settler terror, Israeli daily life can’t continue on as normal,” said Muhammad Khatib of the PSCC.
Although the road stretches for at least 17 kilometers through the West Bank, vehicles with Palestinian plates were barred from traveling on it from 2002 to 2010.
During those years, Palestinians nicknamed it the “apartheid road.”
The ban came after Palestinian terrorists killed six Israelis along that route after the second intifada broke out in 2000.
The High Court of Justice, however, ordered the road opened to Palestinian vehicles.
Nevertheless, the entry and exit routes created for them onto the road makes it difficult for them to use it, Palestinians said.