Israel removes checkpoint in West Bank

2009-06-04 10:31 BJT


Israel has dismantled a security checkpoint that significantly impeded Palestinian travel in the West Bank.

The move is seen as a goodwill gesture before US President Barack Obama's much-anticipated address to the Muslim and Arab world in Cairo on Thursday.

The Bir Zeit checkpoint was removed as Obama travelled to Saudi Arabia for the first leg of his regional visit.

The intent was to ease traffic on the road from Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, to Nablus, the West Bank's commercial center.

But Palestinians say the removal doesn't address the broader need to ease the movement of people and goods in Palestinian territories.

Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, said, "It's a system. It's not about one roadblock here, one roadblock there. It's a system of 660 roadblocks in the West Bank and a system of total closure on Gaza Strip. That's what needs to be removed."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under unprecedented pressure from US to get the peace process back on track. Washington wants him to recognize the Palestinians' right to a state of their own and to halt settlement expansion.

Israeli troops remove the Atara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, June 3, 2009.  (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Israeli troops remove the Atara checkpoint near the West Bank city
of Ramallah, Wednesday, June 3, 2009.  (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Removing checkpoints is a major Palestinian and international demand. They are obstacles that seriously stifle economic recovery as well as everyday life in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers dismantled another small checkpoint in the Ramallah area and the Maoz Esther outpost that was taken down last month.

Israel's army says nearly 150 roadblocks across the West Bank have been removed in the past year.

Editor: Zhang Pengfei | Source: