Palestinians and activists have attempted to block a newly opened road in the occupied West Bank dubbed “apartheid road”.
Dozens of protesters on Wednesday temporarily sealed the gates to the first operational section of the eastern ring road around Jerusalem.
It has two separate lanes divided by an eight-metre-high concrete wall – one for Palestinians who reside in the West Bank, and the other for residents of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Two protesters have been arrested, and four others suffered injuries as Israeli forces attempted to reopen the road, local media reported.
For Palestinians, who cannot access Jerusalem without hard-to-obtain permits from the Israeli military, the road is designed to lead them to an underpass that would eventually lead to the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem – without having to drive through Jerusalem.
For Israeli settlers, the road has granted them quicker and easier access to and from the city.
The road runs northeast of Jerusalem past the Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar and the Maale Adumim settlement, in an area known as E-1.
Israel has planned to annex E-1 and develop the land for as part of the “Greater Jerusalem” plan to redraw the borders of the city. Expanding Jerusalem further east would create space for settlement expansion and would connect Maale Adumim to the city.
The annexation of E-1 would also displace thousands of Palestinians living in towns and villages in the area.
In a statement issued last week upon the road’s opening, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said its creation “affirms Israel’s willful intent to entrench its racist colonial regime and superimpose ‘Greater Israel’ on all of historic Palestine.”
“With the blanket support of the current US administration, including endorsement of Israel’s egregious violations and total disdain for international law and the global consensus, Israel is successfully destroying the territorial contiguity and territorial integrity the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] to enhance its colonial settlement enterprise and facilitate the creation of Bantustans throughout occupied Palestine,” she said.
Ashrawi called on the international community, including the European Union, “to confront these glaring manifestations of colonial racism and hold Israel accountable for its unlawful unilateralism and war crimes with effective concrete measures, including sanctions”.
Israel occupied and annexed East Jerusalem in the aftermath of the June 1967 War, in a move that was never recognised by the international community.
Since then, Israel has built more than a dozen settlements for Jewish Israelis in the eastern half of the city, some in the middle of Palestinian neighbourhoods.
About 200,000 Israeli citizens live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection, with the largest single settlement complex housing 44,000 Israelis.