Day after attack, road announced to bypass flashpoint Palestinian town

Day after attack, road announced to bypass flashpoint Palestinian town

Settler leader says route going around Hawara, where Israelis have been targeted while waiting in traffic, will ease and boost security of for Israeli commuters in West Bank

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Digital plan for the Hawara bypass route (upper road) in the northern West Bank. (Yesha Council)
Digital plan for the Hawara bypass route (upper road) in the northern West Bank. (Yesha Council)

The Defense Ministry has granted approval for construction of a new road that will bypass the Palestinian town of Hawara in the northern West Bank, where Israelis have been targeted while waiting in traffic, a settlement umbrella organization announced Thursday.

The road stretching from the Tapuah Junction to the Yitzhar Junction will run east of Route 60, the West Bank’s main, frequently congested north-south artery, and will shorten the commute for Israelis living in northern West Bank settlements.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that authorizes such projects in the West Bank, said the approval had been given last week. But the Yesha Council made the announcement less than a day after an Israeli traveling through Hawara shot dead a Palestinian man who, according to the Israel Defense Forces, attempted to break into his car and stab him and his daughter who was sitting in the back seat.

The driver, Yehoshua Sherman, said the assailant blocked his car’s path with a knife in his hand.

“I went to work with my daughter and was driving from Elon Moreh to Tapuah,” he said in a taped statement. “A terrorist jumped at my car and tried to open the door and hurt me and my daughter. I went outside and with the help of a driver who was behind me, we neutralized the terrorist and thankfully we weren’t hurt.”

Several other Israelis have been targeted while waiting in traffic on Hawara’s main highway, and settler leaders have been aggressively lobbying for the pavement of a bypass route for years.

In May 2017, an Israeli settler driving through Hawara was met by dozens of Palestinian rioters demonstrating in solidarity with security prisoners then hunger-striking in Israeli jails.

As the driver continued through Hawara, the protesters turned violent, kicking his car and pelting it with rocks. The Israeli then tried to plow through the crowd, but his way was blocked by an ambulance, which had crossed into the lane.

Palestinian protesters surround a car reportedly driven by an Israeli settler as it attempts to cross a crowd of demonstrators near the Hawara military checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank on May 18, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Fearing his life was in imminent danger, the driver later said, he opened fire with his handgun, killing one Palestinian and lightly injuring an Associated Press photographer.

The Yesha Council said in a statement that the new bypass road “will reduce traffic jams in the area, enable a quiet and comfortable fabric of life for the two populations and will contribute to greater security and safety.”

It was unclear when construction of the Hawara bypass highway will be completed, but a spokesman for the Yesha Council acknowledged that it could take years.

The road is part of a broader plan settler leaders have put forward to the Defense Ministry for bypass roads throughout the West Bank that will ease traffic and limit possible friction between Israelis and Palestinians.

Opponents of such bypass roads argue that they more prominently serve the settler population and are used as a tool to expand Israeli presence beyond the Green Line. The Hawara bypass, for example, will be built on land originally belonging to the Palestinian villages of Hawara and Beita that was seized by the IDF for security reasons.

A car drives by the street where a group of Palestinians attacked an Israeli settler, who fired back, killing one person and wounding another, in Hawara, in the northern West Bank on May 19, 2017. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
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