Israel Lets Palestinians Use Hebron Road for First Time in 8 Years

Tzir Zion Road between Hebron and Kiryat Arba was closed to Palestinians following outbreak of intifada.

Israeli authorities on Sunday opened a road from Hebron to the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba to Palestinian traffic for the first time in eight years.

Tzir Zion Road, or "Route of Zion," is the central artery connecting all the Jewish locations in the West Bank city. It was closed to Palestinian traffic in 2001, not long after the outbreak of the second intifada and following a spate of terror attacks against Israelis.

In 2008, the Hebron municipality petitioned the High Court in a bid to cancel the restrictions on Palestinian vehicles. The state told the High Court in response that it would drop some of the restrictions, and that the road would be opened to Palestinians with prior approval and whose vehicles have been registered.

Hebron governor Hussein al-Araj said the opening of the road on Sunday was an attempt by Israel to distract from its continued settlement activities, which its main ally, the United States, wants stopped. He called on Palestinians not to use the road.

"This decision is an Israeli ploy designed to divert attention from settlement activity," Araj said. "I call on Palestinians not to use the road because this would amount to helping Israel campaign to improve its image."

The Yesha Council of Settlements, for its part, also criticized the new measure, saying that by opening the route, it was ignoring "bloodied experiments from the past" and was placing the comfort of some Arab families over the peace and security of thousands of residents of the area, IDF soldiers and visitors to the Cave of the Patriarchs.

"The government must give priority to protecting its citizens' lives and not endangering them in an irresponsible manner," the council said.