Israel opens 'Apartheid Road' dividing Palestinians, settlers in occupied West Bank

The separation wall in the West Bank. Montecruz

The separation wall in the West Bank. Montecruz

Although the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are Palestinian territories, Israel controls all entry and exit points in the West Bank, including those leading to East Jerusalem, which it has annexed.

The Israeli-accessible portion of the road is now only operating between 5am and noon, but will be fully opened as of January 10th, Israeli media reported.

In 2002, Israel began to build a security barrier separating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank in an apparent bid to bolster security following the Second Intifada; Palestinians dubbed the undertaking the "apartheid road", and the unveiling of another similar project is now causing controversy.

Route 4370, which winds for several kilometres (miles) northeast of Jerusalem, consists of two separate two-way roads divided by a wall topped with fencing.

Israeli authorities have said the road is meant to ease traffic congestion at the Hizma checkpoint north of Jerusalem, and have even claimed the road offers "a solution for all populations, Israeli and Palestinian".

The opening ceremony was reportedly attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. The stretch has been dubbed the "Apartheid Road".

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry slammed the new road as "emphasizing Israel's approach aiming to undermine prospects for geographical and demographic contiguity of the West Bank".

The Times of Israel quoted PA Transportation Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Hamdan as saying that "all roads in the State of Palestine should be accessible to Palestinians".

Many residents of nearby settlements work in Jerusalem.

Some 450,000 settlers live in the West Bank alongside more than 2.5 million Palestinians. It would essentially see the Israeli municipal boundaries of Jerusalem extend to the boundaries of Jericho.

Infrastructure is a problem in the West Bank, where Palestinians say they have been unable to build adequate infrastructure due to Israeli restrictions.

By allowing Palestinians to still navigate between Ramallah and Bethlehem - in a very indirect manner - while diverting them from both the E-1 area and Jerusalem, the road eliminates a significant Palestinian presence.

For Tatarsky, the road is also part of a push to incorporate Israeli settlements near Jerusalem more closely into the city, he said.

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