- Title: WEST BANK / JERUSALEM: Israel removes one West Bank roadblock
- Date: 28th April 2008
- Summary: PALESTINIANS OPEN GATE THAT WAS BLOCKING THE ROAD BETWEEN THE WEST BANK CITY OF NABLUS AND JENIN AREA CROWD CHEERING/ PALESTINIAN MEN RIDING TRACTOR THROUGH GATE MEN RIDING TRACTOR, SIGNALLING 'V' SIGN
- Embargoed: 13th May 2008 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2CIDO6TLQ2RXN8GSLM6IH7861
- Story Text: Israel removes roadblock near the West Bank city of Nablus as pressure increases to ease restrictions that burden the Palestinian economy.
Israeli soldiers opened one checkpoint blocking the city of Nablus from dozens of smaller towns and villages in the northern West Bank on Monday (April 28).
Middle East envoy Tony Blair presented Israel with a list of West Bank travel and trade restrictions he wants removed to bolster peace talks with the Palestinians, officials briefed on the document said.
After Blair's talks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Monday, Israeli soldiers remove the checkpoint east of Nablus.
It was unclear if this opened roadblock was on Blair's list.
Palestinian residents, who described the checkpoint as a major bottleneck for travellers and traders, cheered as the yellow metal gate swung open to allow cars to pass unimpeded for the first time in five years.
"Like every citizen, when they ease our movements. Before we used to have a long way to arrive to our houses," said resident of Nablus, Mohammed Salwaha, when was asked how did it feel to drive through the open gate.
The list drawn up by Blair calls for the removal of a number of key roadblocks, including one near the Jewish settlement of Beit El that restricts Palestinian travel to and from the West Bank city of Ramallah, where President Mahmoud Abbas's government is based, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
The list is the first of its kind by the former British prime minister since world powers appointed him last June to spearhead efforts to revive the Palestinian economy.
Citing Israel's restrictions, the World Bank cautioned this week that per capita income in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank in 2008 would be static, if not lower, despite $7.7 billion in aid pledged to the Palestinians in December.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the report did not come as a surprise to him.
"What the report is speaking about is what we talked about time and again before the publishing of such a report. And that is that the Palestinian economy and its ability to rise and be sustainable is dependent, in the first place, on the access and movement for individuals and goods," said Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
On Monday, Blair met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has so far balked at removing major checkpoints and roadblocks, arguing they are necessary to stop Palestinian militants.
A spokesman for Blair said: "We can't discuss the details of what we are talking about with the Israelis."
Mark Regev, Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman said a balance must be achieve between greater movement for the Palestinians and Israel's security needs.
"Israel is committed to try to create greater movement and access for the Palestinians in the West Bank. We are working closely both with the Palestinian government and the international community to facilitate that goal. At the same time we must balance the desire for greater movement and access with the very real security needs," Regev said.
Palestinians say Israel's network of hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank amount to collective punishment, stifle their economy and undermine support for Abbas.
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