JERUSALEM, Israel - Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi approved the removal of 100 dirt roadblocks in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) to ease access to main roads from rural areas.
The IDF plans to remove all 100 by week's end, in time for the Eid ul-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. It is the largest number of roadblocks to be removed at one time.
The IDF issued the following press release on the removal:
"Today, following the directives given by the Israeli government, the Israel Defense Forces began removing 100 road blocks in the Judea and Samaria region.
"The removal of these road blocks will improve traffic between rural areas and villages to the central transportation arteries in Judea and Samaria.
"The decision to carry out these improvements was made in accordance with the directives of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and in light of security assessments by the IDF Central Command and the Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi.
"The IDF will remove road blocks over the next several days, a process expected to end by the Eid ul-Fitr holiday next week. The decision is a continuation of the government policy to improve the economic situation in the region while maintaining the operational flexibility of the Israel Defense Force and security forces.
"The IDF will continue to act in accordance with the decisions of the Israeli government and security assessments in order to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian population in the Judea and Samaria region and to secure the safety of Israeli citizens."
In a related matter, the IDF will not impose a full closure on the disputed territories from Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) to the end of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) as in past years.
Instead, the IDF will reopen the territories in between each holiday to make life easier for the Palestinian population.