7 B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories was established in 1989
Feb. '10: High Court orders opening of road to Palestinian traffic, but army keeps it closed on the Sabbath and forbids pedestrian use at all times
In October ‘09, the Israeli High Court of Justice nullified the closing of a main road in the area of Beit ‘Awwa, Hebron District, to Palestinian traffic, ruling that the army’s contention that the closing was necessary to protect the settlers living in the area was unlawful. The court gave the army three months to find an alternative solution.
The judgment was given in a petition filed by the heads of the Palestinian local councils in the area, who were represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The road had been closed to Palestinian traffic for eight years, during which some 150 settlers who live in the Negohot and Mitzpe Lachish settlements were allowed free use of the road. The closing completely disrupted the lives of the 45,000 Palestinians living in the area. It especially harmed the Jadallah family, some 30 persons who live along the section that was closed, as the road is the family’s only access route to the other towns and villages in the area (see the video link below).
In their recent visits to the site, members of ACRI and B'Tselem found that the road is now open to Palestinian traffic on weekdays, but security forces completely prohibit Palestinians from using it from the onset of the Sabbath, on late Friday afternoon, to Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ends. In addition, the army does not allow any pedestrians to walk along the shoulder of the road at any time. Army officers posted on the road confirmed the prohibitions.
Also, local Palestinians reported a number of cases in which settlers blocked the road or threw stones at them while soldiers were present, but the latter did nothing to stop the assailants or remove them from the road.
The army’s commanders are obligated to ensure the safety of persons using the road, yet it is unclear how restricting pedestrian movement and closing the road on the Sabbath are needed to achieve this, and how the closing can be justified in light of the harm to the local population, the Jadallah family in particular.