Army closes off central Palestinian town to cars (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Oz Rosenberg 04/11/12)
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The Israel Defense Forces is not allowing vehicles in or out of A-
Ram, a Palestinian city of 60,000 northeast of Jerusalem, because of
a recent increase in stone and firebomb throwing at army patrols by
local youth, the army said.
Late Sunday night, soldiers placed large boulders across all four
lanes of the road at the city´s main entrance to block incoming and
outgoing vehicular traffic. Pedestrians are not restricted, the IDF
City residents have another road at their disposal, added the IDF.
But the residents say it is a narrow dirt road some four kilometers
from the main entrance. Because of the distance and difficulty
driving on that road, many residents have to improvise ways to get in
and out of town.
"This is collective punishment," said A-Ram Mayor Sarhan Jasir
Saleima. "It´s true, there were incidents. But how many people were
there? No more than 20 to 30 little kids who see this as a game.
"If something like this would happen in Tel Aviv, would they close
down the whole city? And why would there be army or police patrols
around here anyway? Israelis don´t come here," Saleima said.
A-Ram is on the main road leading to Ramallah, between the Kalandia
checkpoint and the Dahyat el-Barid checkpoint. As such, the city is a
major crossroad through which almost anyone trying to get to other
cities in the West Bank must pass. Many of these travelers reach
their destinations via shared taxis and other organized
transportation originating in A-Ram.
Drivers at A-Ram Taxis say they can´t make a living if they can´t
drive in or out of town.
"Our station is at the city entrance," said Mohammed, one of the
drivers, who, like his comrades, has had to place his taxi on the
road beyond the barrier at the entrance. "People are used to riding
with us, but now they aren´t coming. "When they told me they´d
blocked the junction I ate my heart out," he continued. "Even without
this there isn´t much work. From morning until now I´ve made 10
shekels." It was 4 P.M.
According to Sasi, another taxi driver, all the stores near the city
entrance have been affected, as has the Abu-Shalbak gas station
located near the entrance, which on normal days is always busy.
"I sent 15 workers home today," said Morad, one of gas station
owners. "There are still 14, but by next week I may have to fire all
of them, too. There´s no work."
As for the stone-throwing, residents claim it´s done by children
whose parents don´t always know about it.
"By us, if a kid is eight years old, his mother doesn´t take him to
the park or to the beach," said Mohammed. "Here we don´t have a
beach, so they come here."
Only minutes afterward, two children came out of the entrance to the
road and threw a stone. Almost immediately an IDF force stationed
some 200 meters away shot a smoke grenade in their direction. The
many shocked passersby in the area scattered in every direction.
"This happens all the time," said Mohammed. "Last week the windshield
of my friend´s taxi was broken. It cost him a thousand shekels."
The blocking of the city´s entrance affects far more than just the
adjacent businesses, since more than 70 percent of A-Ram residents
work in Israel proper, while nearly 60 percent of the city´s pupils
study in Jerusalem or in schools out of A-Ram.
According to Saleima, tens of thousands of people come in and out of
the city every day.
"They haven´t told us when it´s going to end," said Ahmed, a city
resident. "I, and others like me, are standing at the junction. We
don´t know if we should go to steal, go to work or just kill
ourselves. We aren´t even dogs anymore."
The IDF Spokesman said that during the past few
weeks, "representatives of the Civil Administration approached area
residents and officials of the Palestinian Authority and asked them
to stop the violent and dangerous behavior; when there was no
response, the obstacles were placed.
"Placing obstructions in Judea and Samaria is done in accordance with
situational and security assessments. The IDF works to assure a
normal life for all the residents of the region, while taking all
necessary security precautions." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/11/12)
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