Israeli army removes 10 roadblocks in southern West Bank
Israeli soldiers removed 10 roadblocks in the southern West Bank Friday, as part of Israel's commitment to easing restrictions on Palestinian movement, the military said.
The obstacles were removed south of the city of Hebron, an army spokeswoman said.
She said the military uprooted a total of 90 obstacles since it began implementing the plan to ease movement in the West Bank about two months ago, the spokeswoman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The pledge is part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which was revived under United States auspices in Annapolis, Maryland last November, after a seven-year freeze.
The latest roadblock removal comes ahead of the arrival of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region Sunday.
The United Nations agency which monitors Palestinian movement and access, however, said in its quarterly report published in May that Israel in reality removed only 44 out of a then announced 61 dirt piles and other physical obstacles throughout the West Bank.
The report by the US Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), also said that the total number of roadblocks - which changes constantly - had in fact risen since the latest report issued shortly before the Annapolis conference: from 566 to 607.
Israel says the roadblocks and checkpoints are necessary to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants, and have foiled scores of shootings and suicide bombings over the past years. But they have also crippled the Palestinian economy, and the US has urged Israel to ease the restrictions to improve Palestinian living conditions and thus support for the peace process.
Of the hundreds of roadblocks, some 100 are permanent, manned checkpoints located within the West Bank and on the "green line" marking the informal border between the occupied territory and Israel. The rest are are dirt piles, cement blocks and other physical obstacles.