Israel opens highway separating Palestinians, settlers

The new road is believed to be linked to Israeli settlement plans in highly contested E-1 area

Israel opened a new road Thursday in the occupied West Bank with segregated lanes for Israeli and Palestinian drivers.

Israeli authorities have unveiled a highway in Jerusalem which puts Palestinian drivers on one side and Jewish settlers on the other, separating them with a "high fence", according to the Haaretz newspaper.

The opening ceremony was reportedly attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

The road's opening prompted condemnation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). "Any Israeli who believes in democracy should feel ashamed about this new road".

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a press statement that the new Israeli plan "undermines the credibility of the global community and the possibility to reach a political solution to the conflict".

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"It's a shame on the global community to see an apartheid regime being established and deepened without doing anything to stop it", the PA statement read.

According to Haaretz, the road was built over a decade ago.

Israeli NGO Ir Amim said in a press release that the road was the "brainchild" of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and was created to "solve the dilemma of E-1 splitting the West Bank into northern and southern enclaves by using road infrastructure to preserve a semblance of contiguity between Ramallah and Bethlehem". In this case, however, the wall separates the whole route.

The long-term goal is to provide settlers with another route to allow them to access Jerusalem more directly, said Aviv Tatarsky of Israeli NGO Ir Amim, which opposes settlement expansion.

In 2004, The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion claiming that Israel's construction of the security barrier inside occupied territory was illegal.

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