Hanan Greenberg
June 3, 2009 - 12:00am

Illegal West Bank outposts are still up and running despite the American demand, but on Wednesday morning the security forces once again destroyed several improvised buildings in the Binyamin area.

Also Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces removed two roadblocks in the Ramallah area in a bid to ease the restrictions on the Palestinian population, and issued an order preventing left-wing activists from entering sensitive areas in checkpoints near Nablus.

Two improvised buildings were demolished in the outpost of Maoz Ester. Police and Civil Administration officials were dispatched to the area following right-wing activists' plan to extend the outpost, which has already been evacuated several times, on Thursday.

Meanwhile, IDF commanders in the West Bank announced their decision to ease several restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population. Two roadblocks were removed: The Rimonim roadblock east of Ramallah, which allows passage to the city from the Jordan Valley, and the Atara roadblock near Birzeit used to cross from the city into northern villages. In addition, the Asira al-Shamaliya checkpoint will begin to operate 24 hours a day.

Central Command Chief Major-General Gadi Shamni, Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Noam Tibon, and head of the Civil Administration Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai decided to ease restrictions after meeting with commanders of the Palestinian Authority's security organizations and the official in charge of civil affairs on Monday.

Palestinians were unmoved by the recent moves, explaining that they were insignificant for the residents' daily life: Rimonim is a small roadblock between several villages, and the Atara barrier did not block any exists or entrances to Ramallah or its surroudings.

A Palestinian security source told Ynet that the ease of restrictions was mainly expressed in the fact that less time would be wasted, as the soldiers would no longer ask for identity cards and there would be an end to long lines in the area.

The Binyamin settlers' committee said in response to the removal of roadblocks that "Defense Minister Ehud Barak continues his policy of betting on the lives of Jewish settlers. It's a shame that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu continues to shut his eyes in the face of the radical leftist policy led by Barak in the West Bank."

No entry to 'carousels'

The IDF is also concerned by the left-wing activists in West Bank checkpoints and has issued a new order aimed at keeping them away. Central Command Chief Gadi Shamni signed a closed military zone order for three roadblocks, in order to prevent "disruptions to the soldiers' activity".

The order does not ban the activists from arriving at the Hawara, Beit Furik and Awarta checkpoints, but prevents access to the security check area around the "carousels", where soldiers check the passing Palestinians.

IDF officials explained that members of different organizations seeking to examine the soldiers' activity have been disrupting the routine activity recently. Central Command officials stressed that the areas were very sensitive, adding that only on Tuesday a soldier had been stabbed by a Palestinian undergoing a security check.

The closed military zone order bans any Israeli from entering, excluding those holding suitable permits.

A similar order is being implemented in other sensitive areas where left-wing rallies are held, including the villages of Bilin and Naalin, prohibiting the activists from approaching the separation fence.

Before each demonstration, the security forces use a public address system to announce that the order prohibits the protestors to approach the area, but within minutes clashes erupt and the order becomes essentially irrelevant.

Hanna Berg of the Machsom Watch organization estimated that the decision was related to an upcoming evacuation of settlements.

"We are acting in accordance with the law and are not creating provocations. If there is no choice we'll accept it, although the Geneva Convention states that human rights organizations cannot be kept away. We will oppose our absence from there, but with legal and non-violent means," she said.


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