UN report: Road blocks down 19%

246 obstacles were removed, increasing West Bank access for Palestinians.

checkpoint 443 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
checkpoint 443 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There was a 19 percent decrease during the last year in the number of road obstacles in the West Bank that prevent Palestinian movement, according to a new UN report released Wednesday.
Additional measures planned by Israel to increase West Bank access for Palestinians could bring those numbers down even further, said the report, authored by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
It noted that in the period between April 2009 to March 2010 there was a drop from 626 to 505 in the number of obstacles on West Bank roads used by Palestinians in Area C.
This includes 65 permanently manned checkpoints, 22 partial checkpoints, staffed on an ad-hoc basis, and 418 unmanned obstacles, including earth mounds, earth walls, road gates, road barriers and trenches.
According to the report, 246 obstacles were removed and 125 new ones were built at other locations.
Overall, compared with the year before, the number of manned checkpoints went down by seven.
In the last year, Palestinian traffic has gradually been funneled onto a secondary road system for Palestinians, according to the report.
Although new roads have been built and others were upgraded, the quality is still inferior to those roads designated for Israeli vehicles, the report said.
Still, as the result of the improvements, travel time was cut between many cities and towns, according to the report, which added that large segments of the Palestinian population enjoy better access to services, places of work and markets than in the past years.
Access improvements were most apparent in the Nablus area, according to the report. The two checkpoints that controlled the main routes into the city from the north – a full checkpoint, Asira Ash Shamaliya, and a partial checkpoint, Al Badhan, were removed, thus allowing unrestricted access to and from the city, according to the report.
Two more checkpoints on the main routes into Nablus, Beit Faruk and Beit Iba, were turned into partial checkpoints said the report, though the Hawara checkpoint remains permanently staffed.
In addition, Nablus residents under 50 no longer need special permits to drive out of the city.
In a number of instances, according to the report, stretches of West Bank roads that had been limited to vehicles with Israeli plates were open to Palestinians.
This includes a six-kilometer section of Route 585, a threekilometer stretch of Route 3265 and 13 kilometers of Route 443.
According to the report, however, there were sections of the West Bank where life did not get better for the Palestinians, such the Jordan Valley, sections of Area C on the Israeli side of the security barrier and the Israeli controlled section of Hebron.
West Bank residents wanting to enter east Jerusalem still suffered delays, the report said. As a result, it remained difficulty for those Palestinians to get to the six east Jerusalem non-governmental hospitals in a timely fashion. Patients and staff can only make use of three crowded checkpoints.
Still, ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society found that their situation improved. While there were 397 instances in which access was denied or delayed in 2008, there were only 289 such instances in 2009, according to the report.
Turning to the issue of construction, the report noted that Palestinian construction was prohibited in 70 percent of Area C.
In the last year, the IDF demolished 223 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, saying they were illegal.
In east Jerusalem, the report stated, not enough new apartments were built for Palestinians.
To keep up with growth, 1,100 new apartments would be needed annually, and that is not the current pace, the report stated.
At least 28% of all Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem have been built in violation of Israeli law, stated the report.