The Israel Defense Forces yesterday advised the Palestinian Authority that it is removing the Hawara checkpoint, near Nablus. The measure, which is to go into effect next week, will enable the nearly unrestricted movement of Palestinians between the West Bank cities of Nablus and Ramallah.
During the years of the second intifada the Hawara checkpoint came to symbolize Israeli restrictions on the movements of Palestinians; every day, thousands of Nablus residents waited in line for hours in order to be allowed to leave the city. It was at the Hawara checkpoint, too, that an IDF paratrooper - who was sentenced to six months in prison as a result of his actions - was filmed beating a Palestinian man, in the presence of the victim's wife.
But it was also at this checkpoint that quantities of explosives and other weapons were confiscated from would-be smugglers and terrorists. In 2004 a 12-year-old boy wearing an explosives belt was apprehended. Conditions at Hawara were eased in 2009, in the context of the relaxation of other restrictions on West Bank Palestinians. Since then, Palestinian vehicles have sometimes faced only random inspections from Israeli soldiers.
Raya Yaron of Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor IDF checkpoints in the West Bank on a daily basis, yesterday welcomed the removal of the Hawara checkpoint as a victory for her organization. Jewish settlers, however, were angered by it. Samaria regional council chairman Gershon Mesika called the measure irresponsible and said Israeli soldiers and civilians on both sides of the Green Line would pay the price in their reduced security.
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