IDF removes 10 roadblocks in W. Bank

Barak told Rice he would remove 50; B'tselem protests checkpoint's bar on east Jerusalemites.

idf roadblock 298 88 idf (photo credit: IDF [file])
idf roadblock 298 88 idf
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The IDF removed 10 dirt mound roadblocks in the West Bank on Thursday. The obstacles were removed near Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm and Kalkilya following the promise from Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier this week to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Israel would remove 50 roadblocks in Judea and Samaria. Meanwhile, in the first move of its kind, east Jerusalem Palestinians with Israeli identification cards and license plates have been prevented this week from passing through the Mizmoriya Checkpoint, near Jerusalem's southeastern Har Homa neighborhood, according to the B'tselem NGO. This is the first instance the organization knows of in which they have been barred from using the same checkpoints as other Israeli vehicles, B'tselem spokeswoman Anat Barsella said. "We are very concerned about this development," she said. The checkpoint, located just outside of Har Homa on the road to Tekoa and Nokdim, known as the Za'atar bypass road, is used by east Jerusalem Palestinians to reach Bethlehem and villages just outside of Jerusalem. It's a shortcut for those who do not want to pass through the long lines at Checkpoint 300, where West Bank Palestinians endure a much more exhaustive search on the way to Bethlehem, said Barsella. Until this week, east Jerusalemites' Israeli plates and ID cards allowed them to pass quickly through Mizmoriya Checkpoint, she said. The only exception to this new practice at Mizmoriya is for the 60 to 70 Palestinians with Israeli identification cards who live in the nearby village of Nuaman, who have been allowed through, said Barsella. This week, seeking to investigate complaints, B'tselem sent a Palestinian field worker from east Jerusalem through the checkpoint. He was immediately stopped and told to use Checkpoint 300, Barsella said. A Border Police spokesman confirmed for The Jerusalem Post that east Jerusalem Palestinians were barred from Mizmoriya, but added that he did not believe this was a new policy, but rather due to the traffic patterns set up in the West Bank for the two populations. He noted that the east Jerusalem Palestinians were free to use the other nearby checkpoint. Barsella said, however, that to the best of her knowledge east Jerusalem Palestinians had been allowed through Mizmoriya until this week.