IDF may remove 100 W. Bank roadblocks

Defense officials: Move would be part of goodwill gestures for Ramadan, and would ease movement.

idf roadblock 298 88 idf (photo credit: IDF [file])
idf roadblock 298 88 idf
(photo credit: IDF [file])
In what could be the largest one-time easing of restrictions on Palestinians, the IDF is considering a list of gestures ahead of Ramadan, including the removal of over 100 dirt roadblocks throughout the West Bank. The package has been approved by head of the civil administration, Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and is being considered by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni. Once approved by the IDF, it would be brought to the cabinet for final authorization. Ramadan begins on August 21. Over the past two years, Israel has removed more than 100 unmanned dirt roadblocks and an additional 27 manned checkpoints, including those at the entrances to major cities such as Jericho, Jenin and Nablus. Defense officials said the lifting of the dirt roadblocks would dramatically improve freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. There are currently close to 400 dirt roadblocks that block off roads. "This would be a major improvement in travel times between different cities in the West Bank," one Defense Ministry official said. In addition to the lifting of roadblocks, the civil administration is also considering issuing dozens of new special permits for Palestinian businessmen that would allow them to cross checkpoints without inspections. There are already 180 businessmen with such permits. In Gaza, the civil administration is considering increasing the amount of imports allowed into the Strip, as well as the types of products. Under current Israeli policy, the Palestinians receive almost daily shipments of food, medical and hygiene products. One of the gestures under consideration is the transfer of hundreds of calves to the Gaza Strip for Ramadan feasts. The Palestinians had asked for close to 3,000 calves, but the request was rejected by Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, the temporary coordinator of government activities in the territories. Under pressure from Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided last week to overrule Gilad's decision and to permit the import of the calves. Defense officials said the transfer would occur if Israel received Palestinian Authority guarantees that the animals would reach civilians in Gaza and not be confiscated by Hamas. AP contributed to this report.