Israel eases traffic restriction in Nablus

Palestinians crowd into cars to take advantage of their newfound freedom.

nablus hawara burka woman 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
nablus hawara burka woman 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian motorists drove freely out of this bustling West Bank city for the first time in six years Saturday after Israel eased long-standing travel restrictions in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of a Muslim holiday. The move was the latest in a string of gestures towards the Palestinian populace in the West Bank. In Nablus, Palestinians crowded into cars to take advantage of their newfound freedom. "I hope this is permanent," said Wissam Hassouna, a 37-year-old grocer who planned to go for a drive with his wife and children. "I really want to drive quickly in my car. I've never taken my car outside of Nablus before. I want to know what it feels like to speed," he said, as he waited in a line to pass through the Hawara checkpoint. Hawara is among the biggest and most notorious Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank. Nablus residents typically wait in long lines to pass through the heavily fortified crossing on foot. Since 2002, motorists have needed a permit to pass through. On Saturday, soldiers freely waved cars through the crossing, prompting a rush of travelers. Palestinian taxi drivers said they were told by soldiers that the measure was a goodwill gesture for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or the "Feast of the Sacrifice," set to begin on Monday. The IDF said there had not been any special order for Hawara on Saturday, but that the improved traffic flow was part of a larger policy of trying to ease movement for Palestinians. It said traffic restrictions would be eased at two more Nablus checkpoints in the coming days, and new pedestrian lanes are planned at Hawara.