Israel to open nine crossings in West Bank fence
Israel is to open nine crossings along the West Bank separation fence at the end of February 2005, members of a special Knesset committee on the defense budget were told Sunday during a tour of the fence route.
The Knesset members visited, among other areas, "Roadblock 300" near Bethlehem, and Rachel's Tomb. Defense establishment officials told the MKs that a new terminal to be opened at the roadblock at the end of February will be able to allow 2100 people to pass through every hour.
Border guards at the terminal will use biometric identification (without direct contact) and will employ sniffer dogs and x-ray machines to spot explosive devices. This is designed to allow both an easy crossing and a higher level of security at the terminal.
The officials also stressed to lawmakers that Rachel's Tomb would remain on the Israeli side of the fence, and therefore there would be no need to pass through the terminal in order to access it.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said during Sunday's cabinet meeting that 4,000 Palestinian construction workers from the West Bank and 800 Palestinian agricultural workers from Gaza will be granted entry permits into Israel.
Since the death of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, the number of entry permits granted to Palestinians has reached 10,000.
Israel also approved recently the entrance of 2,000 merchants from the West Bank into Israel (a total of 4,000 merchants have received entry permits since the death of Arafat), and 100 merchants from Gaza. This is in addition to 200 merchants that received permits previously.
According to Mofaz, Israel is also taking steps to facilitate the operations of international aid organizations. He emphasized that the steps are designed to make it easier for the Palestinian leadership to create a new reality after Arafat's death.