Israel removes 10 West Bank roadblocks

Israel Materials 4 April 2008 10:34 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Israel removed 10 roadblocks in the northern West Bank as part of measures aimed at showing goodwill and easing conditions for Palestinians, the military confirmed Friday.

The roadblocks were removed late Thursday near Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm and Qalqiliya, a military spokeswoman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

They are part of a total of about 450 physical roadblocks - cement blocks, dirt piles and other barriers - scattered throughout the West Bank.

The Israeli military briefed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about what they said were increased security risks involved in removing the obstacles, Israel Radio reported. A senior defence official told the radio network that the obstacles would be put back in place immediately if Palestinian militants exploited their removal to carry out attacks in the area.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak promised to remove 49 of the roadblocks to improve Palestinian freedom of movement during talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week.

He presented a package of measures to Rice and acting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which also included the removal of one military checkpoint.

In addition to the physical roadblocks, Israel has set up dozens of permanent military checkpoints since the current Palestinian uprising erupted amid a deadlock in peace negotiations almost eight years ago. Israel said the checkpoints - whose number currently stands at 99, according to the B'Tselem human rights group - are necessary to stop suicide bombers.

On Monday, Israel removed the checkpoint at Rimonim, a bottleneck east of Ramallah that had cut off the Palestinian city of Jericho, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea from the rest of the West Bank.

Barak also promised a number of other measures, including authorization for the deployment of 700 Palestinian police in the northern West Bank city of Jenin after they complete training in Jordan later this spring.