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Israel Re-Opens West Bank Highway to Palestinians

Israel is allowing Palestinians to use a road in the occupied territories for the first time in eight years. But both Israelis and Arabs are unhappy with the move.

Israel has reopened part of a major West Bank highway to Palestinian cars in compliance with a ruling by the nation's Supreme Court. The road was closed to Palestinians in 2002, after a wave of Palestinian shooting attacks in which six Israelis were killed.

But violence has dropped off, and in 2007, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the closure was discriminatory. It ordered that 14 kilometers of the highway running through the West Bank be reopened to Palestinian traffic.

Route 443 is the main highway between Jerusalem and the Israeli city of Modi'in, 30 kilometers away.

Modi'in resident Talia Brodie is horrified. "I think it's nuts. I think it's absolutely crazy because the fact that the Palestinians are still throwing stones and that rockets are being found in the Palestinian communities around the road, I think it's crazy. And personally, I am not going to travel up 443 to Jerusalem with my two kids. I'm freaked out," he said.

In response to these security concerns, Israel has erected checkpoints at entrances to the highway, and Palestinian cars are being thoroughly searched.

"Palestinians can move freely after their security search is completed and there is no threat to people traveling the road," said Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner.

Palestinians say it is not worth the trouble.

This Palestinian motorist told Israeli television that soldiers searched his trunk and back seat and opened the hood of his motor. He said the search took so long that he does not plan to use the road again.

Palestinians say the road is a symbol of Israel's apartheid policies. Israel says it is not about apartheid, but security, based on a history of Palestinian terrorism.