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The Transportation Ministry on Thursday said The Tel Aviv regional bus company, Dan, did not have government approval to cancel bus service on Saturday afternoons, and said the refusal to await approval would violate their licensing and possibly subject the company to penalization.

The ministry apparently only heard about the move by Dan when it was published in Haaretz on Wednesday.

Dan announced Wednesday that beginning this week end, they will stop Saturday afternoon bus service. Dan announced the move by plastering posters at bus stops around central Israel and in a bulletin on the company's website.

The move would affect nine bus lines in the Tel Aviv area which as of now begin operating at 4pm on Saturday. If the change is implemented, the lines will not start running until 6pm in the wintertime, and 9pm in the summer.

A spokesman from the Transportation Ministry said that Dan had submitted a request in writing which will be reviewed Thursday.

Dan issued a statement that said the cancellation was "only a matter of adapting schedules, and doesn't require Transportation Ministry approval."

The Tel Aviv Municipal Traffic and Transportation Authority said they were not aware of any request for cancellations of Saturday afternoon service.

As of next week, buses will begin running only after sundown on Saturday, in accordance with the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath.

MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) has demanded Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz cancel the decision immediately, calling the move "underhanded opportunism" which issues a "harsh sentence on public use of public transportation."

"For the secular public, which represents most of Israel, the end of the Sabbath is an arbitrary halakhic designation which has no real significance," said Cohen.

"This public wants to continue to enjoy public transportation as early as possible," he said adding: "and of course this carries social and environmental significance.